Harry Potter!
Cinema Signal:

Two books you'll want to read as a primer to this movie:
Brotherhood of Corruption:
A Cop Breaks the Silence on Police Abuse, Brutality, and Racial Profiling

. "Cellular"

Contrary to how some have described it, this is not a taut thriller like "Phone Booth" nor a "high concept" suspense trip like "Speed." The people who compare this to those are confusing styles. This belongs in a family of cleverly worked out criminal gang-vs-straight people comedy-dramas that are so vivid in their intricate plotting that they all but invite you to hurl insults or scream warnings at the screen while the lethal deceptions are unfolding and you're laughing your gun belt off.

Think "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" ("A disgrace to criminals everywhere") to get an idea of what you're in for with "Cellular," a story that never lets the title prop out of sight or mind. It so locks onto this social appendage of the early 21st century that it becomes the key device to taking care of the bad guy. Of course, I can't tell you any more about that. If you really want to know how it goes down ahead of time, call me on my cell.

In a 1st act that competes with molten lava in terms of pacing and performance, Jessica Martin (Kim Basinger), a high school science teacher living large, happily married, well adjusted, goes through the morning ritual of sending son Ricky (Adam Taylor Gordon) off to school on the bus. Once that's accomplished, the ritual ends and routine explodes along with the door to her home. Into her life steps armed Greer (Jason Statham, "The Transporter") who is looking for something her husband took. She thinks he's got the wrong house but pleas of innocence bounce off this guy like rain on plastic.

He kidnaps her and locks her in an attic at an undisclosed location. About the time she spots a wall phone conveniently placed (by the prop guys) on a load bearing wood post, he does, too. So, he takes a sledge hammer and destroys it. Or so he thinks as he leaves her alone and locks the door.

This lady is at her best alone. Since she's a science teacher, she knows a thing or two about phone circuitry and wiring. She experiments with the wire leads until she gets a dial tone. A little more fiddling around and she gets a ring and a connection.

It's her luck to get Ryan (Chris Evans), a lazy hipster who is driving away from the ex-girlfriend he's trying, in an inexplicable manner, to win back. We've seen him in action and he's flighty, superficial and supremely lazy. He's not the guy you go to with a cry for help. Jessica goes on for what seems hours with begging, cajoling and crying until he finally begins to think it might not be a crank call.

When he finally gets involved in what we might have thought impossible for such a half-brained nitwit, he thrusts himself into it by finding the police station and officer Mooney (William H. Macy), a desk cop close to retirement with a whole agenda of non-law-enforcement issues riding shotgun in his brain. What Mooney hasn't yet grasped is that he's an innocent in the middle of a Rampart Division cadre of corrupt cops. And we're in the middle of a game of menace and maneuvering that could get everyone killed.

The fun is in writer Chris Morgan's and director David R. Ellis' abilities to put a headlock on our attentions through the elements of surprise, unrelieved tension, aggravating persistence, dying batteries, dropped calls, signal strength aggravations, opportunistic videoing, strategically timed ringing and a general melange of communication snafus.

It worked for me. I had my over-critical circuits (and phone) turned off.

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  


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William H. Macy and Chris Evans
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