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movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Cellular

Starring: Kim Basinger, Chris Evans
Director: David Ellis
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 94 Minutes
Release Date: September 2004
Genres: Suspense, Thriller, Drama

*Also starring: Eric Christian Olsen, Jessica Biel, Richard Burgi, Valerie Cruz, Eddie Driscoll, Eric Etebari, Adam Taylor Gordon, Rick Hoffman, Bryan Holly, William H. Macy, Jason Statham, Rob Nagle

Review by Harvey Karten
3½ stars out of 4

An online colleague introduces his review of "Cellular" by disparaging "yahoos with cell phones soldered onto their ears." I don't know if yahoos is the right word, but the U.S. is now divided not so much by those who vote Democratic and those who are Republicans, but by the pro-cell-phone demographic and the anti-mobile phone forces. If you're in the latter category, you may look distaste on the times you were accidentally poked on the street by a mobile phone user who is gesticulating wildly or in near-panic when the car riding alongside yours is piloted by a guy so intense on his cell conversation that you wonder when he's going to plow into yours. Still, you never know why this relatively new invention will be literally a lifesaver if, say, you're kidnaped or if you're buried by an earthquake under ten feet of concrete. The way the title gadget is used in David R. Ellis's story written by Chris Morgan are multiple: the phone belonging to young, handsome Ryan (Chris Evans) can not only be instrumental in locating help for kidnap victim Jessica Martin (Kim Basinger); it can also take photographs, another attribute without which the bad guys, even if caught, would not be encumbered by enough evidence to convict them.

Despite plot holes that are regularly pointed out by critics who do not see that thrillers and story flaws are virtually twins, "Cellular" is a mighty tense tale whose narrative is cleverly broken up by comic relief, such as a graphic description of the day spa that soon-to-retire police officer Mooney (William H. Macy) will own and operate and with it make lots of money. When he and his wife are not trying on the latest fruit peel or avocado dressing for the skin, Mooney is out trying to solve a case of multiple abductions, the unfortunate people being prep- school science teacher Jessica Martin (Kim Basinger), her eleven-year-old son Ricky Martin (Adam Taylor Gordon) and ultimately her husband Craig Martin (Richard Burgi–not to be confused with the now-deceased tooth paste after which he was named).

After the briefest of introductions, director Ellis gets right down to business as the abductor, Greer (Jason Statham) and henchmen break into Jessica's California digs and take her away. While Jessica has a nice place with a swimming pool, the bad folks are not out for money but for an object whose location is known only by her husband.

Much of the considerable tension is provided by a telephones, specifically one regular job installed in the hideout of the criminals, bashed to pieces but put together again in secret by the teacher whose general science course has taught her a thing or two about the gadgets, the other a mobile used by Ryan, whose mind is on the girl friend who dumped her, Chloe (Jessica Biel) but who by pure random chance gets the call for help from Jessica. At first Ryan thinks the call is a hoax, but when he gets to believe the real danger that the caller is in, he takes steps that endanger not only his life but the lives of the people on the California highways whose accidents are caused by Ryan's necessarily reckless driving.

The motivations of all concerned are above-board, bell-clear (literally), the entire movie an obvious follow-up by Larry Cohen whose "Phone Booth," though more minimalist, was equally gripping. Jason Statham is in his element as the bull-headed mobster, while Chris Evans, who looks more like someone who might be cast in "Joey" or "Friends," does a fine job growing up from an irresponsible, narcissistic beach-bum to a more mature beach bum in just a matter of days.

Copyright © 2004 Harvey Karten

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