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Jessica Martin (Kim Basinger) is violently kidnapped from her smart Brentwood, Los Angeles, home and taken to an isolated farmhouse, where she is locked in the attic, ignorant of her location. The extension phone is smashed, but the terrified Jessica fiddles with the wires to get a number - any number. The mobile (cellphone) she gets belongs to the irresponsible young Ryan (Chris Evans), who takes a minute to realise it's not a prank call: the woman at the other end has been kidnapped for reasons she can't even guess at, but they seem to want something from her real estate husband. Jessica pleads with Ryan to get help, but his attempts to inform a police officer (William H. Macy) at the station are foiled by circumstance and he has to dash off to the school where Jessica's 11 year old son is in danger of also being kidnapped, to force her to tell the kidnappers what they want to know. But Ryan is just an amateur up against these powerful professionals.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Your mobile rings and it's a hysterical woman claiming to have been kidnapped and pleading for your help. She doesn't know where she is being held captive, and within a few minutes you hear a man's gruff voice, she screams and you realise that it isn't a prank call.

Of course, if you're a young guy in the middle of picking up girls in Santa Monica, this would be an inconvenient interruption, but what can you do? You listen.

Larry Cohen's script for Phone Booth anchored Stu (Colin Farrell) to a public phone, pinned down by a mysterious gunman who had called the booth to snare him. With Cellular, Cohen has reshaped the basic premise of a character unable to hang up, and writer Chris Morgan has given it a wider setting; we're not stuck in one location, and the story is not told in real time...but almost. Nor is Joel Schumacher directing, but David R. Ellis does a decent job of maintaining the tension and the action. (A little bit of bad continuity with Kim Basinger's 'now you see it now you don't' scarf nothwithstanding.)

Morgan's screenplay just manages to hold its internal logic together and the best part of it is the mystery of what the kidnappers want; when that is revealed, it adds so much more grit to the script and to the whole premise. It also explains the identity of the kidnappers. So in storytelling terms, the script works well. Ellis, an experienced second unit director, tackles the action with confidence and builds plenty of dynamics into the film, making it a seamless example of this genre which Hollywood does so well.

Performances are solid all round, with Basinger making Jessica a real person not just a filmic device for our fears, and Chris Evans makes a likeable young action hero who makes it all up as he goes along. William H. Macy delivers his droll, honest policeman -with a retirement business plan - in credible style and the bad guys act mean, notably Jason Statham, who did a great job in The Transporter.

There's a commentary with director David Ellis and writers Larry Cohen and Chris Morgan, plus there are featurettes on the making of the film and looking at cellphones in today's culture.

Published April 7, 2005

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(US, 2004)

CAST: Kim Basinger, Chris Evans, William H. Macy, Eric Christian Olsen, Jessica Biel, Jason Statham, Richard Burgi, Eddie Driscoll, Eric Etebari, Adam Taylor Gordon

PRODUCER: Dean Devlin, Lauren Lloyd

DIRECTOR: David R. Ellis

SCRIPT: Larry Cohen, Chris Morgan


EDITOR: Eric A. Sears

MUSIC: John Ottman,


RUNNING TIME: 94 minutes


SPECIAL FEATURES: Commentary with director David Ellis and writers Larry Cohen & Chris Morgan; featurettes; trailer

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: April 7, 2005

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