The Cell

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Once you enter the mind of a killer, you may never get out.


Sci-Fi, Thriller

Jennifer Lopez, Vincent D'Onfrio, Vince Vaughn

In a privately funded lab, a research team is working on a new pschological treatment to bring Edmund, a billionaire's son, out of a coma. Through a complex array of neural sensors and relays, an experience similar to virtual reality can bring a doctor into the child's mind to determine the causeof a coma.

Catherine (Lopez) is the child psychiatrist that has proven to be most effective and empathetic to Edmund's mind. Consequently she has had the most experience with the neural interface treatment. This comes in handy when the FBI rush a comotose serial killer into the lab and plead with Catherine to journey into his mind. Carl Stargher (D'Onfrio) is a deeply disturbed man who conveniently had a severe seizure minutes before the FBI identified him as a hunted serial killer. Before his capture, he tortured and killed young women by placing them in an escape-poof glass cell and slowly drowning them before performing bizarre post mortem acts on the corpse.

Unfortunately, the now comotose Stargher is now the only one who can reveal the location of his imprisoned victim. Unless FBI agent Peter Novak (Vaughn) can figure out where she is being kept, the victim will soon drown in Stargher's special cell.

Journeying into Carl's twisted mind, Catherine experiences warped and twisted nightmares that gradually draw her deeper into fantasy until she can no longer escape. Donning his knight-in-shining-armor facade, Novak attempts to rescue her by joining her.

Two words-- eye candy. This movie is worth seeing for the fx alone. Although there's nothing we haven't really seen before, the camera work, elaborate costumes, and setting all complement the spectaculor effects to produce a surreal and horrifying nightmare. Some of the images truly appalled (the marionette female corpses), some were plain disgusting (the giddy disembowelment), some were amazing (the glass box that briefly held Catherine), and some were just plain weird (the trio of gaping field women). The mind journey sequences often reminded me of a Tool music video in technicolor.

On that note, The Cell doesn't really have much else going for it. Jennifer Lopez is a horrid choice for the lead role; her acting abilities are limited to a calm empathetic expression throughout bits where most normal people should be screaming. I think they chose her because, ironically, she made the perfect doll to highlight the various impressive costumes and hairstyles within the movie. She looked good, and that was enough for the director. How else can you explain that gratuitous scene when she's wandering around in her underwear feeding the cat?

The ending ruined an otherwise mildly intriguing and visually appealing movie. Catherine decides to don a saint get-up at the end to rescue a child that doesn't really even exist. When that doesn't work, she plays ninja Xena in a tight warrior outfit complete with broadsword. All during this, Novak is hot on the trail of Stargher's cell. Gee, will he rescue the soon-to-be drowned victim? The cheese factor got to be just a bit much.

Vaughn did alright as the puzzled yet determined FBI agent; it's not really his fault he was forced to have a cliche abusive past and whine about it to Catherine's eternally calm and understanding face. D'Onfrio actually did quite well as the tortured and weird villain although it didn't look like he was stretching his acting abilities much as there wasn't really a call to use them. I will give The Cell one point-- Stargher makes Hannibal Lector look like Mr. Rogers. Just don't expect his character to be anywhere near as developed.

This movie does represent an interesting trend in thrillers and shock value. A few years ago we had Silence of the Lambs where the creepy villain was explored thoroughly, but his crimes were only hinted at visually. Then we had Seven where the grotesque serial killer's handiwork was only shown in aftereffect. Now we have films like The Cell where little details are magnified and every gory bizarre idea is conglomerated into one truly screwed up serial killer. But it's OK because Lopez wears a saint outfit at the end.

On a final note, I would just like to say that if I was in some kids' mind, and he suddenly turned into a monster, I would not shake my head in mild reprimand like Catherine. I would mess myself.

Point Blank:
It's a movie with disturbing, beautiful, and amazing images. Eye candy at its best. Minor aspects of movies such as good acting are overshadowed by the visuals, and this is a good thing.