Ryan is on the outs with his girlfriend, Chloe. She’s a super-responsible, save-the-environment type. He’s a slacker making a good run at redefining the word irresponsible. To get back into her good graces, he promises to run an important errand for her. ...
Meanwhile, across town, doting mom Jessica Martin drops her son off at the bus stop and returns home. She’s barely in the front door when men burst through the rear, shoot her housekeeper and drag Jessica away. Throwing her into an attic hideout, they want to know where her husband is. If she doesn’t tell them, they threaten to kill her son. The leader of the pack, Greer, smashes the phone in the room and leaves Jessica to wonder why her world has suddenly been turned topsy-turvy. Jessica is a science teacher, and she manages to jury-rig the smashed phone to call a number—any number—for help. Guess whose cell phone she reaches.
At first Ryan thinks he’s the victim of an elaborate prank. But as he becomes convinced that Jessica’s story is for real, he’s faced with a choice: hang up and leave her problem to someone else, or try to get the police to help. He doesn't hang up. Battling L.A.’s notorious traffic, a dying cell phone battery, a hilariously self-centered lawyer in a Porsche and the kidnappers themselves, Ryan does his best to make good on the biggest good deed he's ever done.
Jessica and her son have a close, loving relationship. Her love for him is so fierce that she’s willing to battle the kidnappers to the death to secure his safety. She and her husband have opportunities to save themselves, but refuse to leave the rest of the family in danger. When faced with a choice, Ryan makes the right decision, and even as he finds himself in greater danger, he persists in his effort to save Jessica. A good-hearted, veteran L.A. cop goes out of his way to protect and serve (even caring for a goldfish whose bowl gets smashed during a fight).
None, which is too bad. Human decency (Ryan) and ingenuity (the cell phone) save the day, without characters uttering so much as a prayer of desperation.
Part of the movie is set in Malibu, and we see many women in skimpy bikinis. Ryan’s friend tries to hit on one of Chloe’s friends (who has prominent nipples showing through her shirt). Several jokes about her "visibility" ensue. There’s also anatomical slang, and a young man in a whale suit tries to pick up girls by telling them about the size of a whale’s penis. A cop chides a partner as being "p---y-whipped." A lawyer brags that his new Porsche will do zero to 60 in 6.5 seconds and “take the girls’ panties down in 3.5 seconds”—and it turns out he’s talking to his mother.
Men kick in a glass door and shoot Jessica’s maid in the back. A scuffle breaks out in a police station. We see dead bodies in a crime scene photo and a videotape of drug dealers being shot at close range. The kidnappers frequently hit Jessica, throw her to the floor and at one point choke her with a strap. One of the thugs comes toward her with a large sledgehammer but uses it to smash a telephone. A man drives a stolen car recklessly on the wrong side of the road, causing a smash-up involving several cars. Later the driverless car is hit by a cement truck and bursts into flames.
There are several shootouts. In one, a crooked cop is knocked backward and killed. (We see her bloody shirt.) Another gets blown away when his position is compromised by a ringing cell phone. A wounded officer gets a bloody gouge on the side of his neck. Ryan smashes a metal pole into a man’s face. Jessica attacks one of the kidnappers with a broken mirror, slashing open an artery, which causes him to bleed to death. Two men fight for a gun, smashing each other’s faces and punching and kicking. A bad guy gets pistol-whipped. Greer butts heads with Ryan, smashing his nose. A man is beaten with a boat oar. Jessica strangles a man with intent to kill. Ryan fires a gun in a store.
Crude or Profane Language
A couple uses of the f-word. The s-word and its variants appear more than 30 times. "A--," "h---," "d--n" and "b--ch" also make numerous appearances. God's and Jesus’ names are abused more than 15 times; several times "god" is combined with "d--n." There’s also an obscene gesture.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Part of the story revolves around the mysterious series of deaths of drug dealers and the disappearance of their stash. The kidnappers polish off a bottle of whiskey.
Other Negative Elements
While Ryan is trying to do the right thing in saving Jessica, he resorts to questionable methods, including stealing two cars, planting a gun on a stranger just as they’re going through airport security and swiping a man’s boarding pass. His reckless driving snarls traffic, destroys property and causes accidents.
Like The Net before it, Cellular constructs a gripping thriller around a piece of modern technology rapidly redefining our culture. The screenplay is credited to Chris Morgan, but the story was constructed by Larry Cohen, who wrote it while waiting for his previous effort, Phone Booth, to sell. (The guy apparently has issues with the phone company.) It contains positive messages about the strength of family, a mother’s love and courageously helping total strangers, even at great personal risk. But as human decency and ingenuity partner to thwart evil, the dialogue (and scenes of explicit violence) reminds us that even big-screen heroes need to be saved from their own fallen nature.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Kim Basinger as Jessica Martin; Chris Evans as Ryan; Jessica Biel as Chloe; William H. Macy as Mooney; Jason Statham as Greer
New Line Cinema