The Cell

Rated: R
Runtime: 1 Hour and 47 Minutes

Reviewer: Dale
Grade: C

"The Cell" is one of the most visually stunning films of the year. Too bad there is no other reason for it to exist.

Yes, there are some great images in "The Cell". I knew that from the trailers. I knew that from the menu screens of the DVD. I was hoping that the movie itself would have some more plot to it, some more character development, than the menu screens. Alas, I was wrong on that point. I like groovy visuals, but I also like them to be backed by something more substantial.

Oh, sure, it pretends to have a plot. It's about a serial killer who has an overly elaborate way of killing people and then a truly absurd way of getting off on what he has done. This right here presented a problem for me as far as the movie is concerned. It's a bit much, the way he goes about killing them. It's far too complicated, and far too expensive, for someone with the killer's limited means to pull off. A better movie would have been absorbing enough that this thought would not have crossed my mind. But it did during this movie. It kept bothering me, and other things in the movie did too. It has a plot that is kinda like "The Silence of the Lambs" if it had been directed by the Wachowski Brothers in conjunction with David Lynch. Jennifer Lopez is the most bizarre (and HOT) child psychologist on earth. She is involved with this experiment to solve the problems of rich people's kids by going into their brains. When the serial killer in this movie goes into a coma (due to some convenient plot neurological disorder) they need to get into his head to find out where he has his next victim stashed before time runs out.

Okay, it has a good plot. I like the premise, even if it does sound like "Dreamscape", "Face/Off" and parts of "Dirty Harry" all rolled into one. But it soon becomes apparent that the movie itself is not interested in this plot. It's far more interested in reveling in its own excess, of rolling around in its own visual style. The movie is so enthralled with its own visuals that it doesn't even bother to make us care about anything else. There is the usual scene of the cop and the psychologist getting in touch with one another (are they attracted to one another? Would I care if they were?) and the usual reason for the loony to be loony (Childhood beatings, yet again). This movie is so unsubtle that at some point the villain even sees himself complete with horns, sharp teeth and scales. It means to be disturbing and mesmerizing and a fun visual trip. But I, for one, am more disturbed by the films lack of a point. I mean, I would wish that a movie involving a woman slowing drowning in a glass enclosure be drowning in order to prove something rather than to provide some kind of sick entertainment. The way that the women in this movie are treated bothered me, and not just when they were drowning so that Vincent D'Onofrio gets his kicks. Jennifer Lopez is allegedly a great psychiatrist and a strong feminine character. So how come she needs Vince Vaughn to come in and save her?? And why does so she do something so stupid so far into the third act? And what is she trying to prove by it? What is the movie trying to prove?

I don't always demand that a movie have a point. But I do demand that a movie that tortures this many of its characters have one. If the only point of this movie is to entertain, then I find that pretty damn sick. Because I don't find the idea of a woman suffering for forty hours particularly entertaining. And I like my movies with weirdness to have some greater purpose than just being weird. When the movie is weird just for weirdness sake, I get bored pretty quick. It has great visuals, but it also has a tendency to hammer one over the head with them via heavy-handed symbolism and repetition. It feels like a two hour music video in search of a good song.

Watch the trailer, then rent "Seven", a serial killer movie that actually has a point behind the homicides and one that actually lives up to the hype. Or, better yet, "The Silence of the Lambs".