Used Up Minutes for Heroic Saving

Ryan (Chris Evans) is one immature dude. He apathetically listens to his ex-girlfriend telling him that she broke up with him because he’s irresponsible, self-centered and completely childish. He agrees to change but we sense he’s saying so just to score. In a just and ordinary movie world, karma will inevitably kick his ass. I found it surprising and refreshing that such a shallow character becomes the protagonist. Is it possible to root for him? No, not at the beginning, but he redeems himself when he takes on a mission.

Ryan receives a call from his cell. He hears a science teacher named Jessica Martin (Kim Basinger) on the other end and says she’s been kidnapped and is being held in an attic. Ryan is unconvinced as to why her kidnappers would give her a phone and why wouldn’t she call the cops in the first place instead of a stranger. She explains that she’s calling from a shattered phone. She has clicked the phone wires together to dial a random number.Jessica pleads with Ryan to give her 10 minutes of his time to hand his cell phone to a police officer. Ryan accommodates, goes to the police station and gives his cell to Officer Mooney (William H. Macy), a cop for 27 years and is planning to form a day spa business with his wife. Mooney jots down Jessica’s name but then he is interrupted when something happens in the station. Mooney tells Ryan to hand the call to another floor. But then…

Much of the generated excitement is witnessing the plot unravel. We are curious as to what the kidnappers, headed by Jason Statham, want. We watch as Ryan becomes Jessica’s single outlet for help. Ryan drives and runs around Los Angeles, trying to outsmart the kidnappers and think of ways to solve cellular troubles such as low battery and bad signals. The plot hardly wastes any time and strings one riveting scene after another. Our unnerving task is to hold on at the edge of our seats.

Chris Evans, who reminds me of Luke Wilson’s appeal and Paul Walker’s agility, is a very likeable newcomer and I hope this movie will jumpstart his career. As Ryan, he is wildly endearing as the reluctant action hero, who says “shit” numerous times in the movie. Kim Basinger plays Jessica with heightened vulnerability. It is a performance that elevates the movie from being corny and seemingly contrived. Jason Statham hovers his scenes with effective malice and William H. Macy provide a comforting presence as the dogged cop who may or may not help save the day.

This lean movie, running at a solid 90 minutes, was written by Larry Cohen. He has fueled a delightful story ride and even the biggest twist doesn’t feel manufactured. It is actually believable and the DVD has an accompanying documentary if you don’t believe it could happen. The bottom line is “Cellular” starts out a gimmick, develops into an exercise, and ends up a greatly executed thriller.