Cellular (2004) - New Line Platinum Series

Genre(s): Action / Adventure / Crime / Drama / Thriller
New Line || PG13 - 94 minutes - $12.98 || June 7, 2005
Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2005-07-04


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.:: F I L M ::.
The Film

S P E C I A L
.: F E A T U R E S :.

Special Features

A U D I O &
.:: V I D E O ::.

Audio and Video

.:: O V E R A L L ::.
Overall
.::MOVIE INFORMATION::.
Director: David R. Ellis
Writer(s): Larry Cohen (story), Chris Morgan (screenplay)
Cast: Kim Basinger, Chris Evans, Jason Statham, William H. Macy


Theatrical Release Date: September 10, 2004


.::DVD INFORMATION::.
Supplemental Material:
  • Filmmakers Commentary
  • Deleted/Alternate Scenes
  • Celling Out Featurette
  • Dialing Up Cellular Featurette
  • Code of Silence: Inside the Rampart Scandal Documentary
  • Theatrical Trailer


Technical Information:
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Widescreen (2.35)
  • English (Dolby Digital 5.1), English (Stereo Surround)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish

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.::THE FILM::.

IMAGE

Seeing Cellular for only the second time, I found the film still to be a solid thriller; a movie that on its surface I had thought would be dumb (based on the trailers and cast choices). Nevertheless, I still enjoyed it and while it might not have the same kind of staying power of other time-thrillers such as Speed or Die Hard, it still is quite good...

Original Review:
There are some movie trailers that just don’t make a film look good, no matter how many shots of a star or how many “heart-pounding” moments it may show. This was my thoughts after seeing the trailer for Cellular for the umpteenth time at the theater. I thought it looked like your run-of-the-mill thriller starring an actress who hasn’t had a decent role in a while. Nevertheless, after reading the review of one of my colleagues here at Movieman’s Guide, I decided to check it out, and to my surprise, it was actually good!

Cellular is about Jessica Martin (Basinger), a high school science teacher who is kidnapped by several men (including Jason Statham) who are looking for something they believe she has. To get this item, they also go after her son and husband. While in captivity, she manages to get a line out from the phone that her captor had smashed which dialed into the cell phone of Ryan (Evans), a 20-something college student living the sunny beach life. After some convincing, Ryan decides to help her out as he goes throughout the Los Angeles, leaving behind a pile of wrecked cars.

Almost in the style of an episode of “Survivor”, Ryan goes on different missions and encounters obstacles as he tries to keep her on the line and save her family at the same time. You’ve probably seen at least two of these from the promos, such as when Jessica asks him to pick up her son or when he robs a cellular store to get a charger. While these situations should’ve been laughable, they were not. Instead, I found myself entrenched with the story and could not remove my eyes from the screen - a rarity in today’s cinema.

Added to the mix, is Officer Mooney (Macy), who is about to retire the force and open up a day spa with his wife. But, after being visited by Ryan, gets involved with the case as he tries to put together the pieces to finding Jessica Martin.

After several average -- at best -- roles, Kim Basinger does a pretty good job here, though the range of her character went from a crying whisper to a crying shouting, but I digress. Basinger delivers a good enough performance that, to me, was critical to whether or not the audience would care.

I was very surprised to see William H. Macy’s name attached to a film like this back before I saw it. He’s done a few Hollywood movies like Jurassic Park III and Air Force One, but he’s primarily an actor who appears in independent features. But no matter what movie Macy is in, he consistently gives, at the very least, a good performance -- despite or because of the script. For Cellular, Macy takes a 2-dimensional character and brings him to life. I will say, though, that there’s a running joke concerning his new profession which never quite was as funny as the director thought it was -- a minor quibble on my part.

Relative newcomer Chris Evans probably does the best job out of all of the main characters. Although it’s fairly obvious about why he’s helping Jessica (there was a whole conversation at the beginning with his ex-girlfriend), I still had no problem with it. Evans’ previous works included Not Another Teen Movie and The Perfect Score (and he has The Fantastic Four coming next summer), but here, I think he grew as an actor and received some respect from me. Evans is not an actor who comes across as the dashing (and perfect) hero, and fortunately, the script does not try to make him one. This character, while good hearted and tries his best to help Jessica, does indeed fail occasionally, thereby defying expectations about the direction the film was going.

David R. Ellis gives us taut direction that kept me at the edge of my seat. With each new turn in the story, I was right there waiting for the conclusion. Ellis mainly started his career as a stunt coordinator before moving on to second unit work before helming the 1996 classic, Homeward Bound II. In 2003, he followed that up with the horror-thriller, Final Destination 2, a film I still have not (and more than likely will not) see. But for only his third feature film, David R. Ellis delivers a masterful thriller that was better than it should’ve been.

Overall, Cellular is a top-notch thriller with some great acting and brilliant direction which, in my humble opinion, saved it from the mediocrity I was expecting from a September film.



.::SPECIAL FEATURES::.

There are a few deleted/alternate scenes that, save for the extended ending, wouldn't have made much of a difference, in my opinion. One extended scene takes place in the beginning and is a new introduction to the main character and his friend, but the way it was presented in the film, I'm glad this part was cut. The other scene of note is at the end where, instead of ending it on Basinger and Evans, it continues with Evans and onscreen (and off-screen) girlfriend Jessica Biel kissing. The original way it was cut is far better...

The feature commentary track, according to the DVD menu, was supposed to be with the director and the writers (Cohen and Morgan) but when the track itself was director David Ellis alongside his daughter (and co-producer) Tawny Ellis and sister (asst. stunt coordinator) Annie Ellis. Anyways, the track itself starts out normal and standard stuff, but David Ellis adds a twist by calling up other participants of the film on their cell phones (including Chris Evans, a New Line exec and composer John Ottman). This keeps the commentary interesting but I guess I would've still preferred more people in the room...

Celling Out featurette starts out as a history lesson on the cell phone but moves on to the evolution of the technology. Beyond what and how cell phones have done for our society, they also delve into the psychology of it as a cell phone - which starts out as just a communication device for important conversations, has turned into something that people use just to keep in contact with each other. There is also speculation of the advancements of this technology where everything we use (including a laptop) will all be available on a cell phone one day (as will possibly an implant in one's head so the person will only have to think about who to call). Brave New World anyone? Runtime - Approx. 18:30

Dialing Up Cellular is the behind-the-scenes featurette with cast and crew interviews explaining how the concept for the movie came about. This also includes one interview with story writer Cohen who tells how he pitched one of his ideas to Alfred Hitchcock; it never came to fruition with the thriller master but did in 2002's Phone Booth. It was from there that Cohen though about the same concept, but taking it out of the booth. Even though it is your usual flare, it was fun and interesting to watch. Runtime - Approx. 24:45

The most interesting featurette/documentary is Code of Silence: Inside the Rampart Scandal is a uber fascinating report about rogue L.A. cops who took the law in their own hands and started their own little crime organization where falsifying reports, drug selling and murder were a ritual. The feature has interviews with people involved with the prosecution and the reporters who broke the story. If you like true crime, this is a great nugget! Runtime - Approx. 25:35



.::AUDIO & VIDEO::.

IMAGE

The movie is presented in a good to great anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) video quality. This is a bright film in general being filmed on the Californian beaches as well as downtown Los Angeles. The colors are nice and I really didn't notice anything wrong with it. The sound is in the standard Dolby Digital 5.1 surround and, as is the case with DD, you have to crank up the volume a little, but it still sounds just fine.



.::OVERALL::.

Cellular is a good thriller worth the purchase price as I found it to be a film that I can watch a few times without growing tired of. Beyond the film, the features are solid enough for one viewing, especially the documentary about the Rampart Scandal. I have this DVD in my collection; it's fun movie to watch alone or with friends.