Josh Bell

Cell-phone companies should be thankful Ryan (Chris Evans) uses fictional service provider 457 Communications in the new thriller Cellular, as during the course of the film he loses his signal in stairwells and tunnels, gets his line crossed with a nearby user, and runs out of battery power at crucial moments in his conversation. On the upside, his phone does take incredibly clear pictures and holds a seemingly unlimited amount of video, helpful for catching bad guys when you're in a pinch.

Cellular is one of those movies in which technology works remarkably well or conveniently craps out, depending on the demands of the plot. Slacker Ryan is enjoying a day at the beach, attempting to reconcile with his girlfriend, when he gets a frantic call on his cell phone from stranger Jessica Martin (Kim Basinger). Jessica's been kidnapped by a gang of thugs led by Greer (Jason Statham, whose contract must stipulate that he gets to head-butt at least one person in each of his films), but thanks to her MacGyver-like skills, a requisite for any high-school science teacher, she reconstructs a shattered phone and taps wires together until she reaches Ryan.

Jessica demands Ryan help her, and after some convincing, he agrees, racing all over Los Angeles, cell phone plastered to his ear, trying to convince a cop (William H. Macy) that there really is a kidnapped women on the other end, tracking down Jessica's son and husband, chasing bad guys, and somehow driving and fighting with the precision of a Hollywood stuntman.

The film obviously has a completely ridiculous and contrived presence, but it's not far off from one that screenwriter Larry Cohen (here credited only with story) made work in 2002's Phone Booth. Phone Booth took some serious suspension of disbelief, but it also mined genuine suspense from its premise; had a gritty, pulpy style; and a strong central character played by a decent actor. Cellular has none of those. Instead, it's got the bland Evans, who never gives us a single glimpse into Ryan's inner life; plenty of ill-advised humor that clashes with the otherwise serious tone; and showy, distracting direction. Kim Basinger also gives one of the worst performances by an Oscar winner this side of Cuba Gooding Jr., with nearly an entire film of overwrought sobs and stutters.

At times, the humor pushes the film into so-bad-it's-good territory, but mostly it's just so bad it's bad, and 90 of your anytime minutes that you'll never get back.

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