If you thought your cell phone could only make funny noises and maybe take a lousy picture or two, think again. It can kill bad guys. It can save lives. It can make you a hero. Behold the wonders of modern technology.
From the same screenwriter who brought you last year's stand-still thriller Phone Booth comes Cellular—surprise, surprise—a feature-length product placement where even in the toughest throes of crime-fighting, our dashing male lead can stay connected.
For some, this movie is naught but filler: the Styrofoam peanuts, if you will, packaging the few goodies in store this fall. But anyone who can bear to let their brain get its beauty sleep for a couple of hours can go ga-ga for Cellular.
Its saving grace is its perfect embodiment of what is endearingly called the 'B' movie. Like a small, drooling child, it gets lots of attention for little effort and can even get away with baby-puking on old Mr. Oscar. It's primitive; it's under-developed; it's first word was "contrived," and it wants to go out and play.
In a suburb of L.A. (read: studio couldn't put the effort into leaving its own backyard), a group of scary-looking bad guys kidnap schoolteacher Jessica Martin (Kim Basinger) from her home. The smartest of the bunch (Jason Statham) locks her away in a dark attic somewhere and smashes the room's only phone. All seems lost, but wouldn't you know it, the shattered bits still have a signal.
Cut to bodacious babes in bikinis on a boardwalk (no joke) and we meet our unlikely hero, the twenty-something beach bum Ryan (Chris Evans). Some bad nipple jokes later, Ryan gets a call on his cell phone that he can't lose, from a woman claiming she's been kidnapped and her family's in danger...
All right, Junior. Go run around. Just don't stay out too late.
Beyond this, the plot loses all connections to reality. If you think too hard, you can almost see the strings pulling each meticulously calculated setback and victory. But fortunately, somewhere between easily sneaking a gun through airport security and running into the very tow truck dragging the very car whose carphone happens to be connected to the exact phone line Jessica is on, our critical thinking skills just give up. Everything glazes over and we can sit back, relax, and bask in the movie's fast-paced mindlessness. After all, this is meant to be one thing and one thing only: fun. Gone is art, expelled is intrigue. Even Jason Statham is left without his suave Snatch-y British accent, and all that is okay. It was never really trying anyway.
Chris Evans is just the stud to drive us along. Sadly, this may be the best performance of his career, having moved up a notch from Not Another Teen Movie's gross-out humor to kicking butt with the freedom of wireless. In the process, he gets to live a teenage male fantasy of stealing hot cars, waving a gun around, breaking all the rules and generally never taking no for an answer, all with zero guilt. After all, what can't you do for the sake of an innocent woman and her—gasp!—12-year-old child?
Nothing, that's what. Sure, the dozens hurt in the spectacular multi-vehicle pile-up halfway through may be a little pissed off at Ryan's reckless driving on the wrong side of the freeway, but deep down inside, we know it's all for a good cause.
Not only does Ryan get to have a rootin'-tootin' good time, but, through his acts of selflessness, he also redeems himself from being the irresponsible jerk fellow beach-bum girlfriend Chloe (Jessica Biel) takes him to be, and presumably gets back with her and her tight white tank top after saving the day.
The other, serious actors' roles are a bit less rewarding, but I can see why they would've wanted something a little more playful, especially William H. Macy, poor man, who plays the adorable good-guy cop, Mooney. Where else, really, in his depressing, type-cast career could he and his sandstone mustache fly sideways through the air in painful slo-mo, guns blazing? Certainly not in Seabiscuit.
Meanwhile, director David R. Ellis (best known for...Final Destination 2?) manages to keep things so very simple that he avoids any real character development, even in our lead. Unlike Colin Farrell's character in Phone Booth, who learns some valuable lessons from his encounter with Kiefer Sutherland's New York sniper, Ryan doesn't change one bit. You can tell from the look in his eyes, it's all for the rush. The whole save the family thing is just a cover.
The same kind of principle applies to us. Frankly, we've seen everything in Cellular before, but heck, we can see it again. We can see it a thousand times. Appreciating cell phones, seeing Chris Evans without a shirt, whatever justifications we can muster, it's really all about the rush. And on that end, Cellular is the right call.