"Another Paris Hilton tape!?
What's with this chick?"

© 2004, New Line
All Rights Reserved

Having just been kidnapped by a ruthless thug (Jason Statham, "The Transporter"), Jessica's (a sweaty and hyperventilating Kim Basinger) only link to the outside world is a single, fragile connection made from a broken phone. On the other end is Ryan (Chris Evans, "The Perfect Score"), a frat boy looking to have some summer fun, but who is suddenly caught up in Jessica's drama. Attached by a tenuous cell phone connection, Ryan struggles to find help, intriguing one hapless detective (William H. Macy, having fun) enough to pursue Ryan's wild story and save a desperate Jessica.

"Cellular" (IMDb listing) comes from the keyboard of Larry Cohen, a cult B-level filmmaker ("God Told Me To," "The Stuff") who has a gift for always making something interesting out of the most basic of cinematic spare parts. If the idea behind "Cellular" sounds familiar, that's because it is. Cohen also scripted the 2002 thriller, "Phone Booth," which also featured the central idea of a panicked man on a phone, though that protagonist could only move inches. The characters of "Cellular" can move miles in an instant, and boy, do they ever.

To be blunt, "Cellular" is one silly film, and it requires a suspension of disbelief so heavy, a forklift is needed to haul it away by the film's end. It's a straight-up B-list thriller only interested in providing thrills, chills, and fun, which is a terrific agenda. Director David R. Ellis ("Final Destination 2") fully recognizes the basic genre requirements that "Cellular" needs, and he provides them with little fuss or lack of imagination. Unlike "Phone Booth," "Cellular" can go wherever the signal can be held, which opens up the idea to endless possibilities (including auto and phone charger theft, fear of tunnels, and use of a phone camera). Ellis runs through these ideas quickly and efficiently only when the script demands simplistic thinking and execution, which is more than enough to provide a fantastic moviegoing experience. Simplicity is never an evil thing.

Where Ellis trips up is when he gets cold feet with the durability of the one-dimensional premise, and instructs co-screenwriter Chris Morgan to pad the film out with an insulting amount of double-crosses and overdrawn action sequences, including a tedious, shamelessly conventional finale at the Santa Monica Pier. "Cellular" is a gimmick-driven motion picture, and it isn't strong enough to support larger, needless concepts of L.A.P.D. conspiracy and harebrained shoot-outs. The film works best when nobody talks, everybody runs, and the cell phone's battery ticks away the minutes until doom.

Filmfodder Grade: C

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