I saw The Cell years and years ago, and I remember being fairly unimpressed. The visuals by director Tarsem Singh (nowadays just Tarsem) were vivid and stunning, but the story and performances left me cold. Who knows how I'd feel now, given how much my taste has changed in the intervening years, but if and when I give it another shot, the bar has certainly been lowered with The Cell². It's a tired, routine serial killer story that never would have been made except that New Line's DVD department, apparently desperate for cash, found it and lazily grafted a few Cell-style elements onto it in order to entice...well, someone, I guess.
The movie kicks things off in style by stealing some shots from Tarsem's film for little to no reason (other than to trick you into thinking this movie has some production value behind it) and narration from a character that never narrates again. Then, we meet Maya (Tessie Santiago, looking like poor man's Eva Longoria), who's working with the police to catch The Cusp (worst. serial. killer. name. ever.), who kills his victims repeatedly by using medical technology to revive them after flatlining. When the killer escapes due to Maya's psychic interference (using objects people have touched, she can see their memories and even see through their eyes, but they can sense her presence), she leaves the case, only to be enticed back minutes of screen time later when the killer strikes again.
Boy, oh boy, The Cell² contains the clear signs of a poorly-written production. Not one, not two, not even three but four writers scripted this film, which anyone who's seen a few bad serial killer movies could probably pound out in thirty minutes. It's a masterpiece of the half-idea. Take, for example, the mystery murderer. In early scenes, the killer's voice is distorted and his face is covered by a hooded jacket, presumably because Maya's using visions to try and track him down. Later, however, we find out that Maya was his first "victim" who managed to "escape" (another huge plot hole), yet even from two feet away, the movie implies she still can't see what he looked like. Next, when Maya finally catches a psychic glimpse of the criminal's face, the movie unceremoniously dumps all pretense of mystery and the killer walks around unmasked for the next 45 minutes. Oh, but, wait, then Maya runs into the killer in person even later in the film, and still doesn't recognize him (!?), and then the movie randomly gives him the reveal I was expecting an hour ago. Finally, it tops it all off by literally using what I'd like to call "brain magic" to explain why Maya can't keep the killer's face in her memory. I think I'm getting a headache.
The movie's whole design for psychic interaction is like that. Rules are made up seemingly at random. Apparently, it's like The Matrix: if Maya dies while her vision is going, then she dies in real life. This is also true, for some reason, when she's seeing things from the killer's perspective. There's also a poorly-defined, literal "inside" the killer's mind (which looks like a dirty basement) where Maya and the killer can apparently interact. Of all the things in the movie, this is the part that's most obviously intended to mimic the original, but even my vague memory of it is that Jennifer Lopez's character spends a good 70% of the movie in the psychopath's head, but The Cell² only leaves Maya in there for about ten minutes. Also, while I wouldn't want to give anything away, what transpires during that time leaves me with more questions. Is Maya now amnesiac? Why did the movie suddenly ignore its own rules? Hmm...
Not surprisingly, director Tim Iacofano has none of Tarsem's visual flair. Instead, almost all of Maya's psychic ability is either conveyed using a cheap Adobe wave effect or takes place in a weird, Tron style hallway full of flat-screen-TV-looking things she pulls off the walls and looks at. Bad CG also pops up a bunch of times, especially during the film's terrible, illogical mental finale. Iacofano also stages one of the most uninteresting car chases I can remember seeing, in which the good guys blatantly and confusingly let the killer escape by refusing to ram his car with theirs, and fails to motivate his cast, who all seem extremely bored by the entire exercise. The only face I recognized was character actor Frank Whaley (from Pulp Fiction and Career Opportunities), and his going-through-the-motions performance is a perfect example of the cast's disinterest.
Yes, New Line thinks someone wants to watch this. Someone. But who? Fans of the original Cell will probably be smart enough to know that direct-to-DVD sequels aren't a promise of high quality and I doubt this star-free sequel will attract outsiders or do more than disappoint fans of Saw-style gore-fests (I'm shocked this isn't promoted as "UNRATED", but it's for the best because the film is practically splatter-free). I guess that means it's for, well, frankly, the uninformed, undiscerning idiot, who doesn't know there are better ways to spend $20. Don't hire a psychic, trust me: there are.
It's all very standard: Eco-Box, poor cover art. The image is okay, but the Se7en-style "creepy" writing used for a background doesn't really have any relevance to the plot, and you'd think New Line would want to use the logo font for The Cell to catch the eye of any fans who might get suckered in. An insert is included for a free digital copy, which you can download off the internet, and the menus are basic and uninteresting.
The Cell²'s 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer looks pretty good except for a visible amping-up of the movie's color palette to try to match Tarsem's saturated visuals, which turns Maya's skin a distracting shade of over-tanned orange. Otherwise, the detail and clarity are both fairly good and there obviously isn't any source damage. A full-screen version is available on the same one-sided disc.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is pretty unimpressive. There are some gunshots and helicopters and a car chase and yet it all feels pretty flat and uninvolving, much like the movie itself. 5.1 French is also included, along with English captions and French and Spanish subtitles.
Oh boy: The Cell 2: Behind the Scenes (30:00) is a half-hour of people talking about their terrible movie. It's not the worst making-of featurette I've ever watched (detailing the production of the film, if not presenting a legitimate defense for the movie's existence), and it doesn't rely too heavily on film clips, but it's terribly uninteresting to sit through because The Cell² is not a movie I cared to know more about. Please note that there are also a few short clips of behind-the-scenes B-roll footage during the movie's credits.
Trailers for Warner Blu-Ray, Orphan (uh, didn't Vera Farmiga already make this movie?), Alien Raiders, the extremely belated and now mostly direct-to-DVD Trick R' Treat, uh, Observe and Report and Friday the 13th (2009) kick things off.
Skip it. Even if you loved the original, this is an irrelevant cash in, and it sucks.
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