The Cell Movie Review

"Wow, this looks expensive," was the only thought going through my head for the entirety of the supremely over-produced and equally under-achieving psychological sicko chiller "The Cell."

Taking place largely inside the inexplicably stylish mind of a serial killer, the movie's visual signature gives one the impression that the production designer went on a double-espresso design jag after waking up from a Goth-meets-Architectural Digest wet dream.

Festooned with graphic sadomasochistic imagery, dark, cavernous landscapes and ornately adorned fantasy torture chambers, the movie plays like a "director's cut" of the Nine Inch Nails video "Closer."

Ostensibly the film is about a unorthodox shrink (Jennifer Lopez) using a computer-enhanced mind-meld experiment to bungee jump into the comatose subconscious of a particularly twisted murderer (Vincent D'Onofrio). At the behest of a desperate FBI agent (Vince Vaughn in a very bad perm), she's trying to discover the location of the killer's real-life torture chamber in time to save his latest victim from being slowly drowned by an elaborately automated Chinese-water-torture contraption.

But in reality, there's not much to "The Cell" beyond for its nightmare visuals. Making his feature debut, music video director Tarsem Singh (REM's "Losing My Religion") hired costume and effects people with movies like "Bram Stoker's Dracula" and "Fight Club" on their resumes, and they certainly earn their keep. But the movie is so relentlessly unpleasant -- like a high-gloss "Seven" or "Silence of the Lambs," sans the depth -- and so utterly full of itself that it doesn't succeed in doing anything more than invoking a Pavlovian retch reflex.

The characters are underdeveloped and the performances uncompelling. Focusing on her sex appeal, Lopez lends her shrink zero scientific credibility, D'Onofrio coasts along in brooding creep overkill mode, and Vaughn's scruffy, obsessed FBI guy is little more than wallpaper.

Next to the tunnel-vision focus on the movie's looks, shock factor seems to be the director's paramount concern (the killer has hooks pierced through his back because he likes to hang himself from chains in his ceiling). Outside of the psycho mindscape, the story is littered with logical loopholes, and even though the film is visually captivating, the style is far from original. Gratuitous slow-motion and "Matrix"-style camera pivots abound, mysterious voices whisper, water drips everywhere and scraping-thumping-bumping sounds echo continuously.

In a movie that didn't feel so heavy, the minutiae of the computer-enhanced mind-melding process would be a unequivocal source of laughs, too. In a polished, sci-fi-futuristic laboratory, Lopez prepares to Mr.-Spock her way into D'Onofrio's gray matter by dressing up in a bodysuit recycled from "Dune," suspending herself in mid-air with wires like in "Coma," and draping a diode-imprinted silk hanky over her face so her fellow scientists can jack in and monitor her brainwaves on a multi-million dollar computer system -- which, of course, has no fail-safe mechanism to use when, inevitably, something goes horribly wrong.

Are there good cinematic and narrative ideas at the heart of "The Cell"? Sure. But the style-over-substance monster devoured the production, and as a result the only thing that keeps the movie from collapsing is the amount of money being thrown into the visuals.


The Cell Rating

" Grim "

Rating: R, Opened: Friday, August 18, 2000


More Jennifer Lopez

A Week In Movies: Stars Descend On London, While New Trailers Premiere For The Edward Snowden Doc And Films With Shailene Woodley, Jennifer Lopez And Chris Hemsworth

Everyone who's anyone was in London this week for the 58th BFI London Film Festival, which held gala premieres for the likes of Wild (with...

Fat Joe Ft. Jennifer Lopez - Stressin Video

American rapper Fat Joe has teamed up with Jennifer Lopez for the single 'Stressin''. In the recent music video, Lopez dances alongside American rapper French...

Jennifer Lopez Swaps Singing For Acting One More Time

Jennifer Lopez is hot property right now and isn't showing any signs of slowing down as she gears up to promote her latest film, The...

The Boy Next Door Trailer

Life is complicated enough for teacher, Claire (Jennifer Lopez). Her husband, Kevin (Ian Nelson) is having an affair with his secretary and their marriage is...


Viola Davis Recalls Childhood Spent In "Abject Poverty" To Spur Action For Starving Children

On Friday, October 10, Variety’s Power of Women event honoured one very special woman for her work against poverty. Viola Davis may be an Oscar-nominated...

Viola Davis Speaks About Growing Up In “Abject Poverty” In Power of Women Luncheon Speech

Oscar nominated actress Viola Davis has spoken of growing up in “abject poverty”, during an emotional speech delivered during the annual Power of Women luncheon...

Everybody Loves Jennifer Lopez’s ‘Booty’ Including Ex Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs

Former couple Jennifer Lopez and Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs have been engaging in a bit of mutual admiration as of late, after the rapper branded his...

Las Vegas Male Identified As Drunken Driver In Jennifer Lopez, Leah Remini Crash

The man responsible for rear-ending the car of Jennifer Lopez, her best friend actress Leah Remini and their children in Malibu, California, before driving away...