It's nothing you haven't seen before, but director David Ellis' Cellular (2004) still pairs well with popcorn. This action/thriller is equal parts Die Hard 3, Speed and Phone Booth; in fact, most viewers wouldn't bat an eyelash if Jack Bauer showed up halfway through. This low-budget studio thriller is the very definition of lean, effective escapist entertainment: the characters, dialogue and plot are nothing to write home about, yet the finished product is definitely more than the sum of its parts. At just over 90 minutes in length, Cellular doesn't overstay its welcome (or, on the other hand, give you enough time to process some of the plot holes)...so if nothing else, it's just a fun little thrill ride that, despite its tech-driven premise, hasn't aged much in the last 8 years. The next decade might not be so kind, though.
Our story follows Jessica Martin (Kim Basinger), an LA realtor's wife who's attempting to have an average day after dropping her son off at the bus stop. Upon returning home, she's kidnapped at gunpoint and held hostage by Ethan Greer (Jason Statham) and his men, who hold her captive in a dusty attic. The room's only phone is smashed, but Jessica gets it working; eventually, her efforts lead to Ryan (Chris Evans, in an early leading role), a random stranger who she convinces to help her. Local police sergeant Bob Mooney (William H. Macy) gets involved soon enough, yet the mystery of Martin's involvement keeps things interesting. Essentially, Cellular is a standard race against time with heavy doses of winking comedy: our characters are portrayed as ordinary people with exaggerated (and convenient) abilities, and the film's answer for this is to pile on even more exaggerated minor characters to even things out.
Strangely enough, it usually works. Cellular is meant to be pure fluff, but David Ellis' experience as a stunt coordinator gives the film's countless action/chase scenes a necessary amount of momentum. What's more is that Cellular never quite takes itself seriously...and though the film's PG-13 rating implies that our heroes won't suffer too much, there's still a notable amount of suspense as the twists pile on top of one another. The film's quick pace doesn't leave much time for exposition or multiple subplots, neither or which are necessary to enjoy the party. I've seen and enjoyed Cellular several times (the first of which was New Line's 2005 "Platinum Series" DVD, and it holds up to repeat viewings. For obvious reasons, anyone with a soft spot for action-thrillers (or just Chris Evans) should enjoy themselves.
Quality Control Department
Video & Audio Quality
Cellular is less than 10 years old and the DVD looked great, so it's no surprise this Blu-Ray edition looks even better. Presented in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, there's pretty much nothing to complain about here: black levels are rock solid, the color palette is bold and textures are often crisp and well-defined. No obvious digital imperfections could be spotted along the way, rounding out this visual presentation nicely. From top to bottom, Cellular has been treated with care (again) and fans should be pleased.
NOTE: This review's screen caps were taken from the 2005 DVD release and do not represent Blu-Ray's native resolution.
The audio is no slouch either, although one minor quibble keeps it from scoring higher. Cellular is presented in DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio and offers punchy channel separation, notable amounts of LFE and strong music cues. Dialogue is frequently crisp and dynamic, though a number of conversations (usually inside the police station) seem to be buried a little deep in the mix. This doesn't pose any major problems, as long as the remote's handy. Optional English (SDH) and Spanish subtitles are provided.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging
The original DVD menu designs were definitely a bit more creative, but these still offer smooth, simple menu design and easy navigation. This 93-minute film is divided into less than two dozen chapters, no obvious layer change was detected and the Blu-Ray is locked for Region "A" playback only. This one-disc release is housed in a stupid "eco-friendly" keepcase and includes no inserts of any kind.
These extras are all recycled from the 2005 DVD, but two of them are now presented in high definition. The vintage bonus features begin with a rather chatty (and occasionally annoying) Audio Commentary
featuring director David Ellis and crew/family members Tawny & Annie Ellis, who respectively served as Associate Producer and Assistant Stunt Coordinator. Other guests are also called via cell phone (har har) to offer occasional insights and production stories. We also get a short collection of Deleted & Alternate Scenes
(5 scenes in 1080p, 5:56 total), the somewhat laughable tech featurette "Celling Out"
(480p, 19:39), an enjoyable Production Featurette
with key cast and crew members (480p, 25:40), a "based-on-real-events" featurette entitled "Code of Silence"
(480p, 27:00) and the film's original Theatrical Trailer
(1080i, 2:27). Overall, this is a solid mix of bonus features...but again, nothing new here.
Cellular isn't exactly highbrow entertainment or 100% original moviemaking, but it is a solid action/thriller with a well-rounded cast, great action and plenty of twists along the way. In other words, it's better than most "check your brain at the door" movies, if that does anything for you. New Line's Blu-Ray package easily beats (or at least equals) the original "Platinum Series" DVD in all categories by beefing up the A/V presentation and keeping all the extras intact. First-timers might want to give it a rent first, but previous owners should consider Cellular a decent upgrade for the asking price. Recommended.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey from Harrisburg, PA. He also does freelance graphic design projects, teaches art classes and runs a website or two. In his limited free time, Randy also enjoys slacking off, juggling HD DVDs and writing in third person.