The Cell

dir Tarsem Singh scr Mark Protosevich
with Jennifer Lopez, Vince Vaughn, Vincent D'Onofrio, Jake Weber, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Dylan Baker, James Gammon, Patrick Bauchau, Tara Subkoff, Catherine Sutherland, Jake Thomas, Pruitt Taylor Vince
NewLine 00/US 2 out of 5 stars

Review by Rich Cline
With an intriguing concept, Tarsem Singh brings his visual stylings (REM videos, Izusu ads) to the big screen. And the result is predictably mind-tripping as it flits in and out of the minds of its characters. Yet The Cell never bothers to make the most of its premise. Even a whiff of intelligent subtext would have made all the graphic grisliness easier to handle (see Seven).

Catharine (Lopez) is a psychotherapist who uses a high-tech gizmo to journey into the minds (and fantasies) of her patients. Then a pair of cops (Vaughn and Weber) ask her to travel into the brain of a comatose serial killer (D'Onofrio) in order to save the life of his latest victim, who is due to be tortured and killed in an elaborate pre-programmed cubic cell. But can Catharine navigate the killer's mind--without losing hers--and find out where the cell is located?

All the clever visual effects in the world can't hide the fact that this is just a nasty piece about women in torment. Yes, it's often amazing to look at--the minds Catharine visits look like otherworldly environments from, er, REM videos and Izusu ads. Performances are fine (although Lopez seems a bit out of her depth as a shrink), and there are some nice character details. But the vacuous script completely misses the chance to comment on reality versus fantasy, the fragility of identity or even the nature of cruelty, as it races to the next scene of sadistic, ugly violence.

[18--very strong adult themes and violence, language, nudity] 22.Aug.00
US release 11.Aug.00; UK release 15.Sep.00

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2000 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall