Normally, I would not put profanity into one of my reviews. Most of the time, I find them to be a cheap way out of finding an appropriate way to describe what I am reviewing (That is just in my reviewing. In person is a completely different matter). However, when something comes along that has no worth whatsoever other than a few pretty visuals, I cannot help but put some in and with the case of the new movie The Cell, I will say this: this is one irredeemable piece of shit. It has been one week since I sat down and watched this misogynistic piece of celluloid masturbation, and I still have no idea as to what the purpose of the production was, nor do I know why I stayed for the entire film.
Jennifer Lopez stars as Catharine Deane, a psychotherapist who has been participating in an experiment that allows her the opportunity to enter the mind of her patients in order to help them possibly in ways that normal therapy will not.
Enter FBI agent Peter Novak (Vince Vaughn), who has been attempting to apprehend a suspected serial killer Carl Stargher (Vincent D’Onofrio), who drowns his victims (all female, of course) and then bleaches them to make them look like dolls (oh yeah, he also hangs suspended over them and gets off while watching the videos of his victims drowning) before dumping their bodies.
The FBI does track him down, but it may be too late. Stargher has fallen into an irreversible coma before Novak can find out the whereabouts of his latest victim, who has less than two days to live before she is drowned. This is where Deane is brought in. At first she refuses, but of course, she eventually agrees and before you can say “Silence of the Seven Lambs”, Deane is in the mind of a serial killer on a twisted journey to save an innocent girl before its too late.
There was a promising premise in Mark Protosevich’s story idea that could have made for a thriller worthy of Manhunter or The Silence Of The Lambs, but music video hack Tarsem Singh makes sure that nothing in terms of character, story or premise are developed at all. He gives us some striking images, but if there is nothing supporting them, who cares? Protosevich’s screenplay hints at a lot of things, but then falls back on clichs as old as Yoda in order to stretch them out to roughly two hours. It would be easy to say that Singh didn’t have much to work with, but he was the one calling the shots here and he is the one responsible in the end. He does not have a single clue as how to develop suspense or dimensions in his characters. Stargher is creepy simply because he has hooks pierced on his back and because he lives in an unkempt house. Novak is a determined FBI agent because he has circles under his eyes and has not shaved in a day or two. Deane is supposed to be a strong-willed heroine but for the most time wanders around like she’s stoned (she does smoke pot in one scene, but that is at home and before her trip into Stargher’s psyche). I would like to say that there are likable characters to root for here, but they are so sketchily drawn that the only thing you do wind up caring for is when this ordeal will be over.
So aside from being a film that is all surface, it is also a joyless experience. Now, I didn’t find The Silence Of The Lambs or Seven to be laugh-out-loud experiences, but there was at least a little humor to be found in each to offset the gloomy subject matter in each film. Here, there is none. All we get are scenes in which children are burned with an iron; women are humiliated, abused and subjected to various tortures before being murdered and disturbing visual images that only succeed in making us wince and make us feel even worse than we did in the previous scene.
I would like to say that the cast helps things, but this was way out of their control and reach. Lopez can act (look no further than Out of Sight for proof on that), but here she is in full “deer in the headlights” mode. Vaughn and D’Onofrio seem to have been given one word each for their motivation (Vaughn: driven. D’Onofrio: creepy.) only to have them too fall into the “deer in the headlights” zone.
I know that there are some people who will like this film. There will be people who will try to find poetry in its ugliness. There are people who will genuinely find this an entertaining thriller (may I never meet them), but I am not one of those people. Society today is sick enough without having such garbage like The Cell out in the open for people to waste their hard-earned money on. Viewers walk away from movies like this feeling the need to take a really long shower to get its grime off. Make yourself a better person and skip this movie altogether. Please.