There is perhaps a theme worth exploring in the impact of mobile communications on modern society, and it's possible Cellular (2004) was attempting to do just that. Likewise, the moral issues inherent in assisting a stranger at the risk of severe personal harm contain plenty of fodder for a compelling narrative. Unfortunately, this cliché-ridden thriller falls short from making any type of meaningful statement. A by-the-numbers plot is propelled to its obvious conclusion by mailed-in performances from what looks on paper to be a cast worth watching. David R. Ellis, whose on-the-nose Final Destination 2 showed a director with a sense for humorous violence, seems to be lost dealing with proven actors William H. Macy, Kim Basinger, and Jason Statham. The tension inherent in corrupt police officers working the system to cover up their criminal activity is lost as the film moves quickly from one standard set-piece to the next, tied together with a plot as shaky as Basinger when she's pretending to be scared. Jessica Martin (Basinger) is your everyday suburban science teacher and soccer mom until her home is broken into, her maid shot, and herself kidnapped by Ethan (Statham). In an act of desperation, she constructs a makeshift telephone from a smashed phone left in her locked room by her captors. Somehow her contraption manages to dial up the irresponsible Ryan (Chris Evans) on his cell phone. Once he realizes its not a hoax, Ryan tells Mooney (Macy), a cop who's on the verge of retirement but eventually has to try to save the day himself. The result is Ryan being sent all over Los Angeles, chasing one target after another as he begins to track down the truth behind the kidnapping. With his phone connected to his ear, he battles bad reception, short battery life, and a few bad cops while trying to save Jessica from certain death. With Cellular, scenarist Larry Cohen wanted to reuse his initial concept for Phone Booth (2002), extrapolating the central idea of a man tied to a communication device into a wireless setting. Whether Chris Morgan's rewrite or Ellis's direction removed any potential tension from the resulting picture, it comes across in its final version as a product of fairly unimaginative filmmaking. When the "making-of" featurette on the DVD has producers saying things like "Our goal was low budget" and "Ellis made Final Destination 2 on time and under budget, so we wanted to work with him again," one doesn't get the sense of artistic commitment. And while being a contrived studio release doesn't have to be a film's death sentence, Cellular seems to be the poster-child for the practice. New Line presents the film as part of its Platinum Series, with a solid anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Director David Ellis and co-writers Larry Cohen and Chris Morgan provide a full-length commentary. Five deleted or alternate scenes are included (with optional commentary), as well as a theatrical trailer and scene selection. Three featurettes are provided, "Celling Out" dedicates no less than 19 min. to interviews with technology experts on the impact of cell phones on modern society. "Dialing Up Cellular" is the standard "making-of" piece (25 min.), while "Code of Silence" is a documentary on a 1999 case of police corruption in LA (27 min.) it's more compelling than the accompanying feature. Keep-case.
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