The Cell 2 Review

The Cell 2 is an infuriating movie, insulting your intelligence as it frolics gleefully in its own stupidity. This is exacerbated by the fact that it poses as a sequel to the Tarsem Singh original, a generally derided film that developed something of a cult following, with this reviewer among the ranks. This film is barely able to qualify as a follow-up as it shares few actual similarities and completely ignores the rules that the original played by.

Eva Longoria look-alike Tessie Santiago is the clairvoyant Maya Casteneda, working in conjunction with the FBI on the trail of serial killer The Cusp, who tortures his victims by killing them and bringing them back to life multiple times. Maya’s ability is the result of a former encounter with The Cusp, rendering her the only survivor of the killer and opening up areas of her brain through the massive amount of endorphins her body circulated in these life-and-death torments. If the explanation sounds inane, its even more stupefying coming from one of the characters.  Anyway, when The Cusp kidnaps the niece of ball-busting small town sheriff Harris (Chris Bruno) – just Harris, like Cher – Maya and the FBI step in to track him down.

The biggest problem with this film for me, outside the lacking production design, impassive acting and late night TV-grade action scenes is the fact that it eschews the rules of the original to the point of being just a different film with the Cell name slapped on the cover. By making Maya control her psychic abilities without using any kind of equipment, the film loses what made the original so tantalizing for me. Jennifer Lopez’s character in the first film could not willingly enter the minds of her patients and it was that conscious and dangerous decision that provided a background for the suspense in the film. Trapped in a world that’s not her own, she must travel through the mind of a killer in order to find clues to rescue his final victim.

The Cell 2 allows Maya to jump into anyone’s mind just by holding on to an object that belongs to them. Yet when she jumps into the mind of the killer himself, she cannot see his face. This is explained away but why can’t she see his face when seeing through the eyes of his victim? Another example is the serial killer’s voice – he sounds like Xerxes in Maya’s visions but does so outside of them as well until he doesn’t again. Maybe I’m a stickler for little things but when you base a film on an established set of criteria and then go completely off the rails when they don’t suit you, you can’t expect your audience to follow.

Clearly piggybacking on the Saw franchise, the serial killer torture room scenes are all coffee-filter grey with deep shades of red, over-saturated and completely tiresome to watch. The scenes dealing with Maya’s descent into The Cusp’s mind are likewise laboriously boring, limited by a small budget to essentially TV-grade CGI, unconvincing and unnecessary. Much of the beauty of the original Cell had to do with the visuals Tarsem Singh conjured up, relying on his commercial background, much as he would for his next film The Fall. Here, director Tim Iacofano uses his television roots to treat the film like a bad episode of 24, assuming that the incredibly thin characters need no further establishing and that poorly choreographed set pieces (a yawn-inducing and strangely disjointed car chase and a pointless stunt with a helicopter) will make up for the deficiency in suspense. I would be somewhat more satisfied if the film was tongue-in-cheek with its convoluted plotting but it treats itself very seriously, with the serial killer and Maya facing off in a psychological battle of wits, signified by dialogue using the words “light” and “dark”. Symbolism, kids! If The Cell 2 doesn’t feel the need to try, why should you?

The Blu-ray transfer is decently crisp but suffers from the fact that the film is shot on HD and it shows, particularly in the darker scenes with more mood lighting. Sound is nothing to write home about, but as long as you can hear the dialogue, that’s a plus. Or minus. You decide.

Blu-ray Bonus Features

The Cell 2: Behind the Scenes” is a thirty minute featurette which curiously involves the cast half-heartedly praising the film and director as well as a look at the special effects and stunts for the film. I can’t say much more for it but if you really want to watch it because you like the film, there’s nothing more I can do.

"The Cell 2" is on sale June 16, 2009 and is rated R. Crime-Thriller, Horror, Sci-Fi. Directed by Tim Iacofano. Written by Alex Barder, Rob Rinow, Lawrence Silverstein. Starring Bart Johnson, Chris Bruno, Frank Whaley, Tessie Santiago.

Mark Zhuravsky • Staff Writer

I'm a prolific blogger, writer and editor who loves film.


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