It was inevitable. Those little plastic pieces of technology have already taken movie theaters by force, on both sides of the screen. (Any film set in the present day has a character yakking on a cell phone at some point, and audiences are constantly reminded to make sure those little noisemakers are turned off before the show starts.) So it was just a matter of time before a motion picture became so dependent on these wireless devices that even its very title would be centered on the Cellular invasion.
This action thriller sets up California beach bum Ryan (Chris Evans) as a reluctant and unlikely hero who answers a call on his cell. On the other end is Brentwood mother and high school teacher Jessica Martin (Kim Basinger). She has just been kidnapped and confined in an attic -- somewhere. After her abductor smashes the phone, she manages to make a single call by twisting together the broken wires and mimicking a dialing pulse (okay technological geeks like me are impressed with such ingenious solutions!).
At first, Ryan doesn't believe Jessica's story. But her pleading with him to not hang up finally convinces him to take a detour from cruising Santa Monica's Ocean Avenue and find a cop. Behind the desk at the police station he finds Sergeant Mooney (William H. Macy), a seasoned officer eager to retire and start a day spa with his wife. Just when Ryan is about to get assistance from the law-enforcement officer, a fight breaks out in the waiting room. With the signal breaking up and the added complication of threats toward Jessica's son, Ryan decides to take matters into his own hands.
Cellular doesn't lack onscreen talent, nor is stuntman turned director David Ellis a stranger to the action/thriller genre. Yet the script still roams "out of service" by relying on illogical situations (bad guys can drive through LA traffic at twice the speed as the good guys) and stupidity (crooks who leave keys in their car).
Parents may find other reasons to hang up on this movie as well. Profanities are frequent, including a single sexual expletive, and a sexually obsessed young man makes derogatory comments about a girl's breasts. However, the primary concern for family viewing will be the intensity of violent sequences, such as many gun shots being fired, depictions of bloody wounds from bullets and fist fights, Basinger's distressed character being roughed up by her captors, and a young child held prisoner in a shed.
A meager positive message about society's willingness to help strangers may be the sole benefit of allowing older teens to view this film. Otherwise, after its scant 94 minutes of airtime, Cellular's battery is exhausted.