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Sometimes Art Hurts
A review of The Cell

by Matt Sedik

It's the age-old story: boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, boy kidnaps girl, drowns her slowly, bleaches her corpse white and then masturbates on it while hanging from chains attached to a dozen or so steel rings he's had inserted into the flesh of his back...

This amazingly photographed film is twisted enough to give Vlad the Impaler a chubby, too bad the plot's got more holes than a russian sub. But wait, I'm jumping ahead. Let me spend as much time dissecting the plot of The Cell as the writer,Mark Protosevich, spent penning it:


That being said, put on yer waders, it's gonna get messy. Let's start with the actors (and I use that term loosely).

Silence of the Yams
Now, I promised myself I wouldn't start this with some cheap shot about Jennifer Lopez's caboose (we've heard 'am all before anyway). Actually you get a pretty good view of her derrière while she's wearing a shirt & panties, standing in front of her fridge. Man, even the space shuttle could circle her moon... Is the collar too...

Lopez plays Catherine Deane, a newbie child therpist-type who works with troubled kids at a research center that's Deepak Chopra meets Star Trek. I'll be honest, Ms. Lopez isn't on my radar when in comes to actors and films. I think the last thing I saw her in was Out of Sight, and she did a great job. In The Cell she agrees to enter the mind of serial killer Carl Stargher (Vincent D'Onofrio) to find the location of his latest victim. My problem with Lopez, as with most of the characters in this movie, is that you don't really develop any sort of emotional attachment to them. You don't know much about her past and I never found myself concerned for her during the whole Malice in Wonderland trip.

You Took Money, Baby
Did somebody give Vince Vaughn a script before shooting? I've always thought of him as a pretty sharp guy, and wonder why he didn't steer clear of this one. Maybe he's just waiting for Swingers 2: Electric Boogaloo. Vince looks like he showed up to the first day of shooting straight from an after-work bachelor party at Hooters.

Is the collar to... Vince plays Agent Peter Novak, a district attorney turned FBI. He refuses to let another woman die, and will go to any length to find her. And in saving her, somehow save himself. There's a hint of what drives Agent Novak throughout the movie, but we only see it briefly and it's never fully developed. And what's with the horseshoe ring on the index finger, is that puppy gov't issue there Vinny?

Two words as to Vince's motivation to make The Cell: cha-ching!

Gore 2000
Every time I think of Vincent D'Onofrio, I remember him from Men in Black. He just so nailed that "12 foot tall intergalactic alien cockroach inhabiting the skin of a dead country bumpkin" thing. In The Cell D'Onofrio doesn't have to worry too much about pushing any acting envelopes. There are two things he does well in this film: 1.) act creepy 2.) act really creepy. Shampoo horns & nipple rings... sounds like a party!

The one thing I'll give him is it must've been tough going through all the costume/makeup changes. In the beginning of the film he looks like the floppy-haired stoner dude behind the counter of the local 7-11. From there he changes into a handful of various god-like figures inhabiting the disturbing rusty landscapes of his mind. And as the story progresses you think you're watching an hour and a half long Nine-Inch-Nails video.

One thing that kept going through my mind was just how useful it might be to have a dozen stainless steel rings surgically implanted into my back. Think of all the things you could hang back there: keys, sunglasses, a towel (y'know, when you're out swimming). If you're jogging at night, you could hang some blinking bike lights of them. And when you buddy's bored, maybe they could weave interesting design shapes through the hoops with some colored string.

What Screams May Come
As the film's director, Mr. Tarsem Singh is probably most famous for his REM video "Losing My Religion". It shows. Actually The Cell probably would've been much more interesting if it were a video, or at least one-third the length. Don't get me wrong, this film is a visual feast. It's got some imagery you won't forget for some time. What was forgotten, unfortunately, was this little thing called a story. In the end, there's plenty of dazzle, but ultimately The Cell is simply Muzak for your eyes.

Yeah, But Can I Take a Chick?
Hmmm... as a first date movie, I'd have to say no (then again, this is coming from a guy whose first dates movies included The Crying Game and Dead Man Walking). I think any chances of trying to come off as the "sensitive guy" type get tossed out the window within the first 10 minutes of the movie (hint: back rings). And even if you've been living with a girl for years, if she belongs to PETA then again, stay away. I'm not quite sure who the audience of this movie was supposed to be, possibly Marilyn Manson fans on thorazine?

photos © copyright New Line Cinema