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With: Jennifer Lopez, Vincent D'Onofrio, Vince Vaughn, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Dylan Baker
Written by: Mark Protosevich
Directed by: Tarsem Singh
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 110
Date: 08/17/2000

The Cell (2000)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Sub-Literate Sub-Conscious

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Stop me if you've heard this one. A serial killer (Vincent D'Onofrio) abducts hislatest victim and places her in a death-trap with a timer set to go off in thenext 48 hours. The killer is caught but conveniently goes into a coma so that thepolice (headed by Vince Vaughn) are unable to find out where the death-trap andthe girl are hidden. Enter a brave psychologist (Jennifer Lopez) who is willingto dive into the killer's subconscious in order to find the girl before time runsout. I seem to recall I've seen this one before.

But the twist with The Cell is that the psychologist really does physically go into the killer's subconscious. That's where former music-video director Tarsem Singh (R.E.M.'s "Losing My Religion") comes in. With the help of his talented crew, these inside-the-killer's-head sequences become astonishing nightmare views where anything can happen. By turns, we're genuinely scared, repulsed, and enchanted.

How to reconcile these two halves of The Cell? Can I really recommend a movie for its visual prowess alone? Well, no. The cop/serial killer part of the story (written by Mark Protosevich) offers absolutely nothing of interest or originality. It echoes Manhunter (1986), The Silence of the Lambs (1991), and Seven (1995), as well as all the other, more forgettable serial killer movies of recent years (The Bone Collector comes to mind).

On the other hand, it's good to have Jennifer Lopez back after a two-year hiatus in which she embarked upon a successful, if uninspiring, musical career. She's a much more interesting actress than a singer, sensual and powerful, as she demonstrated in her last film, the great Out of Sight (1998). Here she holds herself up to the level of Jodie Foster, even if The Cell doesn't have the quality writing of The Silence of the Lambs.

And, for all its clich├ęs, The Cell is also the only movie this summer to deliver on the promise and imagination of "The Matrix" and some of 1999's better movies.

So I'm officially on the fence. My report is in. If you think you can stomach one more run-of-the mill serial killer movie to get at the amazing eye-candy, then go see The Cell. The competition at the moment is so mediocre that it might be one of your best bets. Me, I have the audacity to ask for more.

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