Cellular is a high-octane thriller with great action and suspense throughout. Kim Basinger, Chris Evans and William H. Macy all turn in great performances with a story that could’ve easily gone wrong and became just another forgettable thriller.
Genre(s): Suspense Thriller, Crime
Warner Bros. | PG13 – 94 min. – $19.98 | July 17, 2012
Directed by: David R. Ellis
Writer(s): Larry Cohen (story), Chris Morgan (screenplay)
Cast: Kim Basinger, Chris Evans, Jason Statham, Eric Christian Olsen, Noah Emmerich, William H. Macy, Jessica Biel
Theatrical Release Date: September 10, 2004
Features: Commentary, Featurettes, Deleted Scenes
Number of Discs: 1
Audio: English (DTS-HD MA 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0)
Video: 1080p/Widescreen 2.40
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Disc Size: 21.8 GB
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Region(s): A, B, C
THE MOVIE – 4.0/5
Note: This review came from my original theatrical review written in 2004. I slightly updated it to keep it up-to-date.
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 (KIM 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 (CHRIS 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. 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, I instead found myself entrenched with the story.
Added to the mix, is Officer Mooney (WILLIAM H. 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. Since then, her performances haven’t been the best but it’s a respectable resume.
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. Before Captain America and The Avengers, Evans’ never came 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, thereby defying expectations about the direction the film was going.
Although William H, Macy is primarily an independent type of actor, unlike certain other great actors, he doesn’t mind appearing in larger, Hollywood-type flicks (see: Jurassic Park III and The Lincoln Lawyer). 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 one-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.
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, at the time, 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 mediocrity.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 4.0/5
The commentary track features director David Ellis alongside his daughter (and co-producer) Tawny Ellis and sister (asst. stunt coordinator) Annie Ellis. 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.
There are a few deleted/alternate scenes (5:55; SD) which, 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…
Celling Out (19:38; SD) featurette starts out as a history lesson on cell phones 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, has turned into something that people use just to keep in contact with each other. There is also speculation of the advancements where everything we use will all be available on a cell phone one day. Nah! That could never happen!
Dialing Up Cellular (25:58; SD) 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.
The most interesting featurette/documentary is Code of Silence: Inside the Rampart Scandal (27:01; SD) is 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!
Also included is a theatrical trailer (2:26; HD).
VIDEO – 4.25/5
Generally speaking, Cellular looks excellent in 1080p high-definition and presented in its original 2.40 widescreen aspect ratio. The detail level is great, the color array might seem overblown in some scenes but as I recall, it wasn’t merely done to pump up for this Blu-ray release, but instead how Ellis shot it. Now, as good as the picture looks, I did notice a few instances of dust or scratch marks, but it’s not overabundant or distracting.
AUDIO – 4.5/5
The disc comes with a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track which mostly is impressive. The dialogue levels but ramps up during the action scenes and the LFE channel picks up steam as well during the various car chases. It might not be the best aural experience and I’ve certainly come across better lossless tracks, this was impressive.
OVERALL – 4.0/5
Overall, Cellular is a high-octane thriller with great action and suspense throughout. Kim Basinger, Chris Evans and William H. Macy all turn in great performances with a story that could’ve easily gone wrong and became just another forgettable thriller. The Blu-ray offers up solid video and audio transfers and although there is nothing new in the features department, what is there is fascinating to watch.