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Film Fare...with Mark Moorehead
Cellular

General Audiences: C

Kidnapping action thriller starring Kim Basinger and William H. Macy. Hang up on this one unless you enjoy watching a carjacking hero create carnage on the freeway while talking on a cell phone. Macyís performance picks the film up from a dropped call.

Family Audiences: C

Wrong messages for children under 18. Not a family film. Rated PG-13 for violence, terror situations, language and sexual references.

Ring, ring, ring. ďHello, donít hang up! Iíve been kidnapped and I need your help!Ē

Considering that virtually everyone in the United States over the age of 15 has a cell phone, and itís not uncommon to hear people talking endlessly on them about the most mundane details in their daily lives, its no surprise that audiences viewing the trailer of Cellular would be intrigued by the prospect of a caller actually using a cell phone to communicate something more important than, ďIím standing in line to board the plane. Iím handing the flight attendant my boarding pass. Iím walking down the ramp. Iím getting into my seat. Iím adjusting my seat belt. The plane is preparing to taxiÖĒ

Hearing a woman on the phone pleading for her life gets your attention. However, it takes a leap of faith to believe any savvy young man would listen to a voice from a total stranger abruptly intruding on his airtime and asking him not to hang up--particularly if he has the type of cell phone plan that charges for incoming calls.

This is part of Cellular's plan, requiring you to place reality on hold while the receiver of the call, our hero, engages in the most implausible death-defying acts ever achieved while talking on a telephone.

Before the urgent call was placed, high school science teacher Jessica Martin (played by Kim Basinger) was minding her own business as she walked her son to the bus stop. Once she is back home, armed men break into her house, kill her maid, kidnap Jessica and drive her to an unknown location to lock her in an attic.

Miraculously, Jessica has a knack for repairing solid-state electronics and pieces together a broken cell phone, enabling her to place one random call that happens to be to a cell phone owned by Ryan (played by Chris Evans).

Jessica tells Ryan sheís been kidnapped and asks him to drive his cell phone to the nearest police station so she can make an official report to someone who can do something about her plight. This is where a conference-call feature would have come in handy.

At the station Sgt. Bob Mooney (played by William H. Macy) listens to Ryanís story. However, he has his hands full with an untimely riot in the lobby of the station.

Meanwhile, Jessicaís kidnappers decide to work her over a bit to convince her they mean business. Then they ingeniously inform her they intend to kidnap her son at the regular time he gets out of school. She instantly relays that message to Ryan. Rather than move on to the next police officer at the station to solicit aid, Ryan makes the brilliant decision to dash out to his car to intercept the kidnappers before they get to the school.

In spite of countless moving violations that result in the biggest traffic accident since Matrix Revolutions, Ryan arrives too late.

With best intentions to save the life of the desperate woman on the other end of the line, Ryan goes beyond mere Good Samaritan and wields a gun in the face of an inattentive clerk to facilitate a purchase (he actually pays for it) of a battery charger and carjacks a personal-injury attorney. At this point Ryan better hope this is not a prank call.

Cellular recalls the suspenseful film Phone Booth with Colin Farrell, in which the entire movie takes place in a phone booth in the middle of Times Square. Only the one answering the phone was the person being held hostage, and Farrell couldnít move two feet for fear for his life.

Cellular, directed by David Ellis and written by Chris Morgan and Larry Cohen (who wrote Phone Booth), attempts in vain to create the same unrelenting tension that worked so well in Phone Booth. The framework for the two films remains familiar. The bad guys up the ante with escalating violence and provide a few twists along the way.

Cellular does provide a lot of action and a few nervous moments for the audience. However, weíre able to suspend our disbelief only for a limited time. The batteries for this Phone Booth wannabe-on-wheels soon run out, and we decide thereís no reason to hit the redial button.

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