The Cell (2000) / Thriller-Sci Fi

MPAA rated R for bizarre violence and sexual images, nudity and language
Running time: 107 min.

Cast: Jennifer Lopez, Vince Vaughn, Vincent D'Onofrio, Marianne Jean-Baptiste
Small role: Peter Sarsgaard

Director: Tarsem Singh
Screenplay: Mark Protosevich
Review published August 23, 2000

Well, I guess Hollywood still thinks the horror boom of last summer will pay off this year, but people looking for a good time at the theater should probably do their best to avoid The Cell.  Yes, you might be thinking that since it stars Jennifer Lopez (Antz, Out of Sight) and Vince Vaughn (Psycho, Clay Pigeons), who usually star in light and appealing roles, that there will be loads of entertainment value amid the bumps and scares of the horror-thriller plot.  You'd also be thinking wrong,  as The Cell is easily one of the least appealing, and at times most repulsive, imagery you're likely to ever find in a major Hollywood release.

This one stars Jennifer Lopez as a psychotherapist (how she still gets cast in the world's premier doctor roles is beyond me) who has developed a device that allows her to enter the mind state of others, in order to help comatose patients pull out of their comas.  Vince Vaughn is an FBI agent out to capture a sadistic serial killer (D'Onofrio, The Thirteenth Floor), who when finally caught isn't able to provide information about his latest victim due to being a schizophrenic who has just entered a catatonic state.  So the Feds enlist the aid of the psychotherapist to travel into the mind of the killer in order to try to get information as to the whereabouts of the kidnapped girl before she drowns in the cell the killer uses to drown his victims.

Save the aforementioned imagery, and some nifty religious comparisons between baptism and drowning, this is a standard thriller all of the way, dressed up to look better than what it is.  Obvious comparisons to other movies flood the mind, liberally dipping it's style from Silence of the Lambs and plot from Dreamscape.  Still, it could have been a lot easier to endure had the characters and science elements been a bit more believable.  Tarsem Singh's (Immortals, Mirror Mirror) first time out as director demonstrates he has a knack for visuals, but definitely needs to work a little more on his characters and believability in their motivation. 

Lopez's portrayal as a psychotherapist is difficult enough to swallow without her looking like she's just emerged from a glamorous make-over in every scene (including waking from bed).  Plus, this is definitely the most subdued you'll probably ever see Vaughn in a film, and he's fine in his role but somewhat wasted because his character that it could have easily been played by almost anyone and still been successful.

To sum it up, those into loads of eye-candy and pageantry who also aren't squeamish about some seriously creepy and gory visuals, will probably find enough to satisfy them.  Intellectuals looking for artistic meaning may also be fooled into believing the ersatz religious motifs and scientific explorations make it a deeper, more profound film than it really deserves credit for.  Most everyone else would probably do better in staying away from The Cell, as the characters are too wooden and storyline too familiar to really be compelling enough to scare anyone. 

Basically, The Cell is like receiving a Christmas present wrapped in beautiful ribbons, bows and wrapping paper, that when opened contains nothing more than the same old standard "pair of socks" present you get every year.

-- Followed by a straight-to-video sequel, The Cell 2 (2009)

 Qwipster's rating:

©2000 Vince Leo