One of the best thrillers ever made. Not a joke.
The Illusionist) and an ambivalent approach to life. That all changes when he receives a phone call from a mysterious woman named Jessica (Kim Basinger, L.A. Confidential). Jessica’s been kidnapped, her family has been threatened, and her only connection to the outside world is this call. So Ryan finds himself drawn into a high-tension situation, racing all over Los Angeles, tenuously tethered to Jessica, attempting to unravel the conspiracy that has placed the Martin family in the crosshairs of a particularly disgruntled Jason Statham.
I’m going to level with you: I have long thought Cellular was one of the finest and most underrated little thrillers to come out of Hollywood in years. It’s a big favorite around our household; so revered, in fact, that any time we have guests over who haven’t seen it, we pop it in and let it rip. Invariably, new fans are created.
Director David R. Ellis, best known for his work on the Final Destination series, really nails this thing; crafting a brisk thrill ride that never lets up. And that’s not hyperbole. Literally five minutes into the movie, Jessica is kidnapped and it’s all car chases, gunfire, and foot races from that point on, culminating in a sleek and satisfying finale. What you have here is a 94-minute runtime that has been precisely engineered to generate as much suspense and action from its hook as possible.
That hook: Chris Evans tearing around the city with an antiquated Nokia phone pinned to his ear. He can’t lose the signal or Jessica and her family are in the wind. From that premise, Ellis squeezes out every potential scenario involving a cell phone: poor reception, low battery, crossed lines, it’s all used. And just when the gimmick begins to flirt with wearing out its welcome, the script changes the playing field.
Made in 2004, Cellular sports a strong cast of established pros and some stars who had yet to hit big. Basinger and William H. Macy (Fargo) bring clout, while a pre-everything Jason Statham rocks it as a villain (a role he should pursue more often). Chris Evans steals the show, though. Long before he suited up as Captain America, in his relatively unknown days, he was given the lead here and turns in a charismatic, highly entertaining performance. It’s not easy work either, as he’s doing much of his acting on the phone, often while driving a Porsche.
Lucky for you, if you’ve yet to enjoy this gem, you can now soak up the glory in high-definition. Thankfully, Warner Bros. doesn’t half-ass the release, serving up a strong 2.40:1/1080p transfer that pleasantly surprises with its depth of detail and vibrant fidelity. The LA travelogue looks terrific and, since most of the action takes place in real time and broad daylight, you’re going to get a face-full of bright flash and fury. The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track is equally up to the task, pumping out composer John Ottman’s punchy score and draping the channels in well-mapped mayhem. Extras are, sadly, recycled from the DVD release: commentary from David R. Ellis (which concludes with an awkward plea for more work), deleted scenes with optional commentary, a standard-issue behind-the-scenes featurette, a hilariously dated documentary on cell phones, and a segment on the Rampart Scandal (which feels like a non sequitur).
Sure there are some flaws, the acting can be wooden, and Dat Phan has a cameo. But no matter…Cellular is the bee’s knees.