The Cell Movie Review

And I thought I'd seen some twisted movies. Get ready for the real psych-out of the year, the long-awaited Jennifer Lopez vehicle The Cell, the most daring production to come out of Hollywood since Fight Club.

Note however that daring does not necessarily mean good. While The Cell is a deeply disturbing picture, it doesn't always impress. And though I am fine with digitally vivisectioning a horse into ten quivering pieces for dramatic effect, I'm not sure I needed to see Vincent D'Onofrio poking a hole in Vince Vaughn's stomach in order to pick out some intestine to spiral around a rotisserie. (No, really.)

The Cell is a hodgepodge of The Silence of the Lambs and Dreamscape, with bits of Psycho and Kiss the Girls thrown in for effect. The film opens by introducing us to Catherine (Lopez), an ex-social worker now employed by an experimental medical company that can connect two minds together via a funky machine. In practice, this is being used by Catherine to try to heal a young kid now in a coma. But kid-in-coma does not a thriller make, so to spice things up, Catherine is given the chance to enter the mind of the also-comatose Carl Stargher (D'Onofrio), a serial killer who secrets his victims away in a glass cell for 40 hours, until the cell fills with water and they drown. (The convolution gets more forced than that, but I'll spare you.)

Vaughn plays FBI agent Peter Novak, who rushes Stargher to Catherine's offices so she can jump into his brain to locate the well-hidden glass cell where Stargher's final victim is still awaiting her watery doom. Through an increasingly bizarre turn of events, Novak hops in as well. Considerable mucking around ensues.

The Cell owes its freakiness not just to some whacked subject matter, but also to a truly bizarre use of photographic tricks. Slow-motion, fast-motion, upside-down, sideways, underwater, hallucination-inducing graphics -- you name it, The Cell has it -- and it often combines them for an even bigger effect. Add in a demonic-looking D'Onofrio and Lopez's even stranger wardrobe and you've got the makings for a movie that's going to give plenty of pre-teens nightmares when they catch it late at night on HBO.

The Cell is certainly not for all tastes. In fact, it may not be for any tastes. Pure freak fans will likely be happy, but real moviegoers will probably be disappointed. For example, while the story is twisted enough to make any closet Lynchian giddy, there are enough stupid holes in it to make the entire go-inside-his-mind plot irrelevant. In the end, Carl's brain dump doesn't provide the clues to the cell's whereabouts, the answer is sitting right there in his real-world basement.

With its ultra-hip sensibility, cool threads, and post-modern thematics ("the cell" as metaphor for the human mind, get it?), The Cell is clearly a movie to be treasured, hated, and debated by wannabe film snobs. But did I actually like it, you ask? I'm still trying to figure that one out. Ask my shrink.

Off to Never-Neverland.


The Cell Rating

" OK "

Rating: R, 2000


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