Imagine the ending of a kidnap thriller extended for ninety minutes. Now imagine it’s actually pretty good!
Ryan (Chris Evans) is the kind of guy that no one depends on. All that changes when he receives an unexpected call on his new cell phone, one from a woman (Kim Basinger) who has been kidnapped and taken to an undisclosed location. She tells Ryan that men are threatening to kill her and her unsuspecting family unless Ryan can alert the cops, but if she loses her connection to him she may not be able to call anyone else for help. With Murphy’s Law in full effect, everything that can go wrong is about to and in the worst (and most entertaining) possible ways.
There’s an inherit charm to this feature, one that’s hard to pin down. It starts off like a thriller, switches off to some slacker/buddy film, then charges full ahead as an action/comedy (heavy on the former, light on the latter). It’s as if the director keeps changing formats to intentionally confuse viewers as to where the film is actually going, contributing to an “expect anything” mentality that fuels the movie. Once it gets going, the reluctant hero has to avoid the bad guys, avoid the cops who may think HE’S a bad guy, and keep the cell phone call going as long as possible.
None of the players really have to be big names for the film to work, , yet there are plenty of names to be thrown around throughout the production. Jason Stratham as “Bad Guy Leader” is always fun to watch; you wouldn’t want to mess with him as a tough guy, but his facial reactions when things go wrong are always entertaining. Don’t tell Kim Basinger that her part is a throwaway; she milks every moment onscreen and sells it over the top. Even relative newcomer Chris Evans holds his own (against Stratham, too!) while still managing to look like he doesn’t have a clue what he’s doing. Almost every time Cellular has the chance to do the same old thing, there’s another surprise around the turn.
Cellular is pure guilty-pleasure entertainment taken up a notch just for kicks. It’s a one-gimmick pony that amazingly holds your attention for ninety minutes, and that’s a tough trick for a lot of films these days. Just check out all the fun to be had for being rated PG-13: violence, terror situations, language and some sexual references. Now, doesn’t that sound like fun?
(a three skull recommendation out of four)