Jennifer Lopez and Vincents D'Onofrio and Vaughn
aren't enough to turn a video director into a feature filmmaker
Reviewed by Carlos deVillalvilla
(Click on the images to see larger version and credits.)
Really, the more I see ex-music video directors (such as "The Cell's" Tarsem Singh) take on feature films, the more I realize how excrutiatingly painful to watch a two-hour music video would be.
Jennifer Lopez plays Catherine Deane, a social worker who by some strange pseudo-science can enter the minds of comatose patients. 'Course, I'm sure Jennifer Lopez enters the minds of a lot of men, but we won't go there. Currently, she's attempting to help a young scion of a billionaire with somewhat unencouraging results.
Meanwhile, out in the real world, serial killer Carl Stargher (played by Vincent D'Onofrio) is happy as can be, having constructed a diabolical device that will automatically drown his young, nubile female victims without Carl even being present (naturally, a bank of video cameras capture every morbid moment of their final struggles). A marvel of modern technology, that.
He doesn't realize how close the FBI, led by twitchy agent Peter Novak (Vince Vaughn) is to him. When they finally break down his door, Carl is already face down and - you guessed it - comatose, the victim of a schizoid virus or some other such babble. With a victim locked in Carl's Infernal Machine at an unknown location, time ticking away, you can guess what happens next. Uh, huh; an excuse for Jennifer lopez to wear a lot of striking, exotic costumes and more important to Tarsem, a chance for the director to show off his MTV visual style.
Tarsem suffers from the "Look, Ma, I'm Directing" syndrome, one especially prevalent among ex-music video directors. "Art for art's sake" may be MGM's motto, but, pragmatically, it doesn't work in movies. The movie often violates its own internal logic - for example, as the social worker points out ad infinitum throughout the movie, it often takes a CHILD months to build enough trust to let her in, but the SERIAL KILLER only takes a single session!!!
A trip inside Jennifer Lopez's brain wouldn't be as fruitful as the one we take here. Assuming there was enough room for anyone else in there, considering her ego, we'd be assaulted by letters 40 miles high in garish, blinking neon blaring "I'M ALL THAT & A BAG OF CHIPS." Believe me, honey, you're not. For his part, Vaughn is most definitely a star of the future, but he'll need to learn to pick material in which he gets to do more than just smirk.
To Tarsem's credit, some of the visuals and special effects are very nice indeed, but for the most part, it's eye candy for it's own sake. Frankly, Da Queen and I got more of a kick from the two guys in the row behind us discussing the philosophical implications of "The Cell" and its somewhat overbearing subtext of redemption and absolution. Guys, you're watching WAY too much of the Independent Film Channel.
By the way, what is up with film credits today? Do we really need to see everyone's name who is even vaguely connected with the movie? On the credits for "The Cell" you will see (I'm not making this up) the identities of the salad chef and of Jennifer Lopez's bodyguard. I imagine the guy who cleaned up after the movie's canine star will be graced with a poop wrangler credit next.
The more I think about "The Cell," the lower its rating goes, and if I don't stop here, it's going to get a zero rating, which really isn't fair. Too much eye candy and not enough solid writing, plot and characterization a dull movie makes.
Theater or Video?
See cast, credit and other details about "The Cell" at Internet Movie Data Base.