Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Movie Review: "The Cell" (2000)

Director: Tarsem Singh
Year: 2000
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 47 minutes

A psychologist goes into the mind of a serial killer in order to find out where he has imprisoned his latest victim.

Is"The Cell" a well thought out psychological mind-bending sci-fi horror crime thriller or is it just an excuse to get Jennifer Lopez and Vincent D'Onofrio into cool looking outfits and makeup? Lopez plays Catherine Deane, a psychologist who must literally go into the twisted mind of serial killer Carl Stargher, played by D'Onofrio, to help Agent Peter Novak, played by Vince Vaughn, and the FBI find his latest abductee before it's too late. Inside Stargher's mind, we see a surreal landscape, an S&M and art-inspired world controlled by an idealized version of himself, who is often wearing outfits that are creepy but colorful and lavish when he isn't simply a monochromatic demon. The makeup work, costuming, and set designs in the world inside his mind are spectacular looking.

This movie is the feature film directorial debut Tarsem Singh, who prior to this had mainly directed music videos. You can clearly see the influence of this experience in the final product of "The Cell" if you look at the aforementioned art inspired design. This project also serves as the debut of writer Mark Protosevich, who would go on to write screenplays for "Poseidon" and "I Am Legend," though the writing is probably the weakest part of this particular film.

Behind all of the gorgeous costumes, makeup, and the surreal dream world of the mind, at its core, "The Cell" is a fairly basic crime thriller. An abducted girl is trapped in a cell and there's a ticking time clock to her death via some sort of inefficient killing method designed by a wannabe James Bond villain. Though much of it takes place in the mind of a serial killer, it doesn't really add anything to the overall plot. Catherine is hired to find where this woman is being held captive, but nothing she does seems to work. By the end of the second act, it's Catherine herself that needs to be rescued from the situation. It's a bit of a spoiler, but there's no evidence in the mind of the killer that didn't exist outside of it.

We would hope there would be some greater meaning to all the weird visuals, but there really isn't. The isn't much depth or metaphor in play. It all seems to be about what Singh thought would look cool and having an "outside of reality" dream world act only exists as a place where all these visuals could become a reality. There is no greater purpose to these sequences, they just look really bitchin' on film. That being said, despite not adding much but filler to the overall story, it is those visuals that make "The Cell" worth watching. Without them, this movie is handicapped by its derivative nature.

My Rating: 5.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 6/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.3/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 46%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

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