R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir David R Ellis
scr Chris Morgan
with Kim Basinger, Chris Evans, William H Macy, Jason Statham, Noah Emmerich, Jessica Biel, Eric Christian Olsen, Eric Etebari, Eddie Driscoll, Adam Taylor Gordon, Richard Burgi, Brendan Kelly
release US 10.Sep.04, UK 1.Oct.04
New Line
04/US 1h34

To the rescue: Macy and Evans

evans basinger macy
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cellular This unapologetic B-movie works simply because it has no pretensions at all. The filmmakers just goes for it, embracing the cheesy story elements to make us we care about the characters ... and get truly caught up in the suspense.

Jessica (Basinger) is a schoolteacher suddenly kidnapped by a vicious thug (Statham) and his goons. She hasn't a clue why this is happening but, while fearing for the lives of her husband and son (Burgi and Gordon), she manages to get a broken phone to dial the mobile number of the irresponsible hunk Ryan (Evans), who she convinces to help rescue her. This leads to a frenetic race all over Los Angeles, during which an almost-retired cop (Macy) finally begins to connect the dots.

This is such a lean movie that it almost mocks bigger L.A. thrillers like Collateral, because this has more heart and stronger tension. The action plays out in real time as Ryan gets into one mind-boggling scenario after another, each challenging us to think what we would do and then to smile at his inventive solution. It's a cunning story structure that works brilliantly even when it gets a bit corny.

Basinger doesn't get much to do besides whimper into the phone, but her character still registers strongly, and she gets some terrific scenes later. Evans carries the whole film on his muscly shoulders (he begins with the requisite shirtless scene, just so we can see he's physically up to the challenge)--he's a superb everyman we can really identify with. And Macy, as usual, mines his role for pure acting gold with wonderful telling details and more than a few surprises.

By keeping things so engaging, the filmmakers make sure we're right where they want us when things get unbearably tense. Ellis (Final Destination 2) directs with sparky energy and wit, while Morgan's script (based on a story by B-movie guru Larry Cohen) is unassuming and yet very clever. It also figures out quite possibly every conceivable use for a mobile phone in fighting baddies. Genius.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 13.Sep.04

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... cellular Donna Carter, Wisconsin: "Excellent! Generally, when I buy popcorn at the movies, I make sure I eat it at a rate so I'll have some through the whole movie and not run out too quickly. But in this movie, the tension was such that I was cramming it in my mouth without even thinking about it, and even though the film is only 94 minutes long, I had munched through a large bag of popcorn about halfway through! So, according to the popcorn scale, it was very good. Even though I felt that it stretched believability a bit, the first half was better than the second half, which I felt tied things up just a bit too neatly. But all in all I enjoyed it regardless." (13.Sep.04)
2004 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall