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Overall Rating

Awesome: 17.24%
Worth A Look37.93%
Average: 24.14%
Pretty Bad: 12.64%
Total Crap: 8.05%

5 reviews, 57 user ratings

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by Luke Pyzik

"Looking for a cheap thrill? Call this number."
4 stars

We’ve barely been introduced to Jessica Martin (Kim Basinger) before two thugs are kicking in her kitchen door and whisking her away to a dingy attic prison. We know she has a young son, because she just finished walking him to the bus stop, and we know she is a high school teacher because during their walk they have one of those cutesy movie conversations that serve no other purpose than to tell us what she does for a living. “Cellular” is the kind of movie where every line of dialogue, every action, and every character’s sheer existence is merely a setup for some kind of improbable action vignette. It is a ridiculously silly thriller that squeezes every possible resource from its high concept premise and quickly becomes way more entertaining than it has any right to be.

Though the ad campaign would have you believe Kim Basinger is the star of the film, “Cellular” really belongs to Chris Evans, a young actor you’ve probably never seen, but may recognize if you were unlucky enough to see “The Perfect Score” or “Not Another Teen Movie.” Here he stars as Ryan, a hunky young slacker who is swaggering on the boardwalk trying to win back his sexy girlfriend (Jessica Biel) when we first meet him. Minutes later, he is receiving a random call on his cell phone from a stranger named Jessica. The woman claims to be locked in an unfamiliar attic for reasons she is unaware, and begs him to take just ten minutes to hand his cell phone to a police officer.

So begins a series of events that will send Ryan off on a wild mission through Los Angeles in which he attempts to save Jessica and her family from a particularly nasty gang of ruffians. The details of how Jessica makes the phone call under the nose of her kidnappers, and exactly how Ryan is able to maintain contact with her through much of the film’s running time, is wholly irrelevant. There is nothing remotely believable or scientific about it. Moviegoers who often find themselves saying, “Well, why don’t they just …,” will be in for a frustrating ninety minutes. What is important is that director David R. Ellis ("Final Destination 2") keeps it all moving at breakneck speed by providing an endless stream of action scenes so well executed and exciting that to nit pick the logistics is to miss the point.

The movie is light as air, never taking it self too seriously, and aims only to provide cheap thrills. It reminded me of 1994’s “Speed” in the way it piles action on top of action without ever letting reality or bothersome character development get in the way of a good chase scene. And while it is not as ingenious as the Keanu Reeves thriller, it has a similar energy that I admire. It’s an energy that fans of television’s “24” will recognize in that it gleefully sacrifices reasonability in exchange for sharp twists and over the top set pieces.

Cliché is the stock and trade of “Cellular,” but the actors give their performances with a nod and a wink, making it all go down rather easily. William H. Macy even turns up as the obligatory “last day on the job” police officer and is the only one capable of putting the pieces together to save the day. Macy knows he is not reinventing the wheel with this role, and he doesn’t try to. He is an actor who understands perfectly how to capture audience sympathy with acerbic wit and a dejected disposition, and the role is an easy lay up for him.

Jason Statham (“Snatch,” “The Transporter”) snarls proficiently enough to be adequately menacing as the lead heavy, while Chris Evans has enough natural charisma to be the reluctant hero. Basinger’s performance, on the other hand, is an odd thing. She gives such breathy line readings that I have to believe she was aiming for some kind of satirical comment on the damsel in distress role. Her tawdry performance is distracting at times, but she simply isn’t on screen enough for it to really make much of a difference.

“Cellular” isn’t a perfect movie - many of its attempts at comic relief are embarrassingly unfunny, including its lame closing credits sequences - but I had a damn good time watching it. It is monumentally silly but undoubtedly fun, and that is a combination filmmakers rarely get right. For all the movies that claim to be mere escapism, so few of them have the creativity to be genuinely entertaining. “Cellular” is not quite “Speed” or “Die Hard,” but it’s in the same ballpark, and is the perfect companion to a tub of buttery popcorn.

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originally posted: 09/14/04 05:44:23
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User Comments

9/13/17 morris campbell killer thriller 4 stars
9/19/07 JM Synth Hugely contrived and a little dull but it is cheerfully silly 3 stars
6/10/07 R.W. Welch Not a bad premise but too contrived. Average acting. 3 stars
4/27/07 mb Lots of action, fun movie. 4 stars
1/30/07 Matt Welcome back the ever gorgeous Kim. Silly but reasonably original plot-and it does work! 4 stars
7/14/06 Stanley Thai A very thrilling film. VERY fast paced and some funny moments. The best thriller of 2004. 5 stars
6/07/06 Asif I like cheese(deal with it) 4 stars
4/10/06 Fabi Very good movie. 5 stars
3/23/06 The Talking Elbow Reminds me of watching porn without any sex in it. 2 stars
2/11/06 Loopt Low quality film for the brainless masses, don't bother 2 stars
2/03/06 Steve Newman I enjoyed this film immensely - good idea although extremely far fetched!!! 4 stars
1/05/06 me better than the film I shot of paul smith sucking off his dad 4 stars
10/26/05 Paul Smith This movie was absolute rubbish, the acting and plot were woeful 1 stars
9/27/05 Daniela Great movie, got it on DVD 5 stars
9/07/05 Taylor Fladgate Decent action flick, which some twists. 4 stars
9/05/05 Lenny Went Movie. Best Movie I Ever Saw. 5 stars
8/27/05 Dane Great movie 5 stars
8/21/05 Doremimi WHAT A RIDE! An utterly ridiculous ride, but a blast nonetheless! 4 stars
8/19/05 ES trailer tells us bad guys were cops, did we need to know that? save a little for the film 3 stars
7/09/05 ALDO Well Worth watching 4 stars
6/28/05 Steven This movie is garbage 1 stars
6/18/05 gray dave It was pretty damn good save 1 or 2 problems 4 stars
5/28/05 Indrid Cold A slick, MTVesque actioner. Not bad. 4 stars
4/19/05 David Awesome 5 stars
3/31/05 Nick Boyd Highly implausible but moderately suspenseful 3 stars
3/29/05 albert ¡RYAN!¡JESSICA!¡RYAN!¡JESSICA! 3 stars
3/06/05 Susan Sunderland Way better than I expected. Enjoyable 5 stars
2/15/05 American Slasher Goddess It's not nothing we haven't seen before, but it's passable. 3 stars
2/05/05 LilyM I didn't expect it be good at all, but I was on the edge of my seat the whole time! 5 stars
2/04/05 Barbara Long I thought this was really good film, I'd watch it again 5 stars
1/28/05 Charlie A little fast paced, but interesting plot with a ton of action 4 stars
1/23/05 Dan Great Movie!! 5 stars
1/22/05 Tjalda L. Schiel Not a slow moment. Action and suspense deluxe in a well done B+ movie. 5 stars
1/14/05 Turtle Nothing more than a Nokia commercial. And a shitty one at that. 1 stars
1/09/05 Feliciano man, its a really good movie, well done and zero cheesyness 5 stars
1/01/05 Mike Predictable popcorn crap. Contrived, unbelievable and ridiculous. 1 stars
12/15/04 Etheridge Hoogendijk Kim Basinger is GOOD in it. Why so much damn sullen distress about her role? 4 stars
12/14/04 Evangelica Schnapfenschalz Yep, Jessica Biel plays too many obnoxious girlfriends of guys too pussywhipped to dump 'em 4 stars
12/14/04 Hilary Adamson Could've been awesome without Jessica Biel's character mucking it up. 4 stars
12/01/04 nick2k no real plot, but not bad if you see what the movie is driven by. but 'phone booth' owns! 4 stars
10/20/04 Steve Kelley Breaks the rules by giving extras the best lines. But fresh because of it. 4 stars
9/24/04 Agent Sands Actually nothing like "Phone Booth." More like "Speed." Statham makes a good villain. 4 stars
9/23/04 jcjs terrible, beyond contrived, can't believe Ebert gave it 3.5/4.0, my first 'Total Crap' 1 stars
9/22/04 Maz Not bad. Suggest it for a cheap ticket, or a rental 4 stars
9/20/04 Robin Kept me in deep suspense 5 stars
9/20/04 jeff cheesy, good nokia and porsche adv, the hot chick from texa chainsaw mas is in it :) 3 stars
9/20/04 doug bad idea to begin with; the plot is ridiculous and the acting is average; I walked out 2 stars
9/17/04 me A good film 4 stars
9/17/04 ANDREW Awful signal coming from Screen in form a horrid movie 1 stars
9/17/04 Kyle Wellcome Interesting plot, little cheesy at times, but overall good flick 4 stars
9/15/04 Master of Sinanju Kim basinger's facelift is MUCH too tight.She should have had her box tightened too! 2 stars
9/14/04 Mark D Fulwiler Hang up on this phone call! 2 stars
9/14/04 Elizabeth Entertaining "popcorn movie"; Evans a charismatic lead. 3 stars
9/13/04 me A great film 5 stars
9/12/04 Galadie I've seen better made-for-tv movies 1 stars
9/11/04 SB Suspenseful, funny & a HOT leading man! 5 stars
9/11/04 Verizon not a sponser If they were, then Kim would be dead in 10 minutes 3 stars
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  10-Sep-2004 (PG-13)
  DVD: 18-Jan-2005



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