Starring: John Cusack, Samuel L. Jackson, Isabelle Fuhrman
Genre: Horror/ Thriller
When a mysterious signal is broadcast across mobile networks worldwide, mobile phone users are instantly turned into rabid zombie-like killers. Now, Clay Riddle (Cusack) and a small group of survivors must somehow travel across New England as Clay is determined to save his son.
Not too long ago I put together my personal top 10 of big name actors who have a depressing tendency to turn up in predominantly rubbish films. Well John Cusack was one of those on that shameful list, and though he was maybe never a megastar, he was a dependable name. In the last few years he has turned up in some truly awful straight-to-DVD drivel, but Cell represents a new low. Unfortunately, he also drags Samuel L. Jackson down with him, an actor who has also turned up in his fair share of rubbish.
What is also disappointing is that these two have done a Stephen King adaptation before; the surprisingly effective thriller 1408, but then that was nearly ten years ago. However, even in initial concept Cell sounds laughably bad (so Cusack and Jackson must have surely done this solely for the money), but the result is something far worse!
Though the plot does in some ways sound like an accurate description of walking through the centre of any western city these days, we get neither an intelligent and chilling allegory of modern times, or either a so-bad-its-good Saturday night B-movie. What we do actually get is an abomination of a film that has quite literally no good qualities whatsoever.
Apparently, Stephen King’s novel is quite good and genuinely chilling. I of course cannot comment on that as having not read the book. King apparently changed the ending, but based on this film, there have been some very extreme changes by King and co-writer Adam Alleca as, based on the unpleasant and boring experience of watching this film, it is impossible to see how Cell could have been a good book.
The story starts of as silly but passable, despite one initial flaw; people are only infected when talking on their phones. Now, in my personal experience most people may well act like zombies where their mobile phone is some kind of vital limb that their life and entire existence depends on, but most people tend to be typing, not speaking.
However, as the film goes on that flaw is the least of its issues, as it happily ticks off over-done post-apocalyptic zombie film clichés in a plot that just gets more and more absurd as it goes along. If this were not based on a book, then it would really feel like everyone involved was making the whole thing up as they went along.
There is no real sense of danger or any genuine thrills and the only engaging thing about this film is to see if it can actually get any worse; well that is the only aspect where Cell does deliver; Not only is the script shockingly bad, but the film itself is badly made, with shoddy and shaky camerawork and poor lighting that at times makes the whole thing completely unwatchable. I appreciate that the budget was probably quite small, but some great films are made on small budgets, but Cell frequently feels like a badly made student film.
The performances too are abysmal; Cusack looks like he really cannot be bothered and his lacklustre performance is as infuriating to watch, as he probably earnt more for this film than most of us do over several years. One of the possibly more potentially entertaining aspect of this was that at least with Samuel L. Jackson, who would potentially shout and swear a lot, but he barely ever raises his voice, and he too looks like he cannot be bothered.
As the plot gets more and more stupid, Cell is a horrific viewing experience and a sheer waste of 90 minutes that could be spent doing something more productive, like staring at a wall. That would certainly be less infuriating. It is impossible to care about the characters, and the less said about the mind numbingly stupid finale, the better!
A film experience that is equally depressing and infuriating, and most certainly best avoided; Cell is a hideous insult to cinema, that is badly made, told and acted, and possibly completes the decline of John Cusack’s career.