JULY 10, 2009
I don't usually read any reviews of a film until after I have seen it, but perhaps I should have made an exception for The Cell 2. Not reviews from fellow critics, mind you, but rather the "user reviews" on the IMDb. Because I would have noticed that there were two kinds: outright slams from regular IMDb commenters, or praise from people who seemingly loved the movie so much that they apparently felt compelled to make an IMDb account just to be able to share their thoughts on this masterpiece.
I am, of course, being sarcastic: the comments are clearly the work of New Line's marketing team, who are trying to balance all of the negative reviews by writing their own raves, all of which sound identical to one another. And since it only takes a click on the "writer's" name to see that they have no other reviews to their credit, I have to wonder who is actually being fooled by this nonsense. The type of people dumb enough to fall for it are probably dumb enough to enjoy this piece of shit anyway, so they are just preaching the choir.
Nothing about this movie works. The porn-star-esque lead is the least convincing psychic in movie history (even fake psychics like Whoopi Goldberg at the beginning of Ghost are more believable), backed up by the fakest police force this side of Suburban Sasquatch. And the killer! If you don't instantly (and I mean INSTANTLY, as in, the second he appears on screen) identify Frank Whaley as the killer, you're just brain dead. Not only is the only semi-famous actor in the film, but everyone in the world is smart enough to know that the producers would make sure to secure a "name" for the killer since they obviously couldn't get one for any of the heroes. Thankfully, they "reveal" Whaley as the killer around the halfway mark, thus preventing future embarrassment on their part had they tried to save it for the end.
Plus none of the movie makes sense. Why does the killer hide his identity from his victims if he plans to kill them? Just in case they escape? So he's the world's first killer with a built-in plan to make up for his ineffectiveness. He also disguises his voice for good measure (with a voice box that is seemingly inside of his mouth, as he uses this unseen device without any sort of assistance from his hands). And the cops might as well be security guards at a Toys R' Us for all the intelligence they display; at one point the hero is framed for the killings, and when they bring him in for interrogation, he basically says "No, it's Frank Whaley!" and they instantly believe him. Their lab folks aren't any much help either; for some reason no one ever thought much of a guy named "David Berkowitz" buying needles by the metric ton. I'm sorry, but the name "David Berkowitz" is sort of a major red flag, wouldn't you think? That's the type of name that, if you somehow had it for real, you'd change it. They might as well have gone all out and had the guy use the alias "Hitler".
It also fails across the board on a technical level. For starters, it's also SHOT like a porno, which doesn't help the lead actress any. Everything is overlit to the point of not having any detail; even the supposedly dark scenes in the killer's lair are quite bright. Chase scenes seemingly go on forever, as it will be snowing and then not (and then snowing again) during the dull affair. Speaking of the chases, there's a couple of "rules" for a good car chase. Like, they should have destruction of some sort, there should be obstacles in the form of cars and pedestrians, and the cars should at least make contact with one another. None of these things are present here; the chase centers around what seems like a completely closed off mall parking lot, the cars never hit anything or each other (come on, knock a fucking side mirror off at least!) and most of it consists of shots of the cars spinning out and then righting their direction to try to escape/gain on their suspect. Of course, the IMDb fake reviews all make sure to point out how "awesome" the chase is, despite the fact that there have been better ones on the news.
And the EFFECTS! My god. The first film wasn't really great, but at least it had some truly amazing visuals. Not so much here, every single CG effect is terrible, and the screenwriter/producers (Lawrence Silverstein and Alex Barder, upon whom I place the entire blame for this bullshit) made the idiotic call to have a lot of them. In the film's only somewhat decent idea (even though it's largely cribbed from Dreamcatcher), memories are presented in a sort of warehouse, as a series of slides. Whaley "erases" memories by picking these memories up and then smashing them on the floor. It looks awful, so you'd think they'd show it once and then use sound effects or something for the rest. But nope! We see him smash slide after slide of sub-PSone level graphics on the floor. And at one point, I swear to God I'm not joking here, the heroine is menaced by the Windows "Pipe Maze" screensaver. Except it doesn't look as good as the one on your 1997 Pentium II processor with 13 inch CRT screen. The compositing and other CG effects are also abysmal; more than once I thought I was watching the cut scenes from The 7th Guest or maybe Phantasmagoria.
(Huh, Phantasmagoria is a real word, according to this spellchecker. Compositing is not, however.)
Speaking of Dreamcatcher, Cell 2 rips off all manner of films. Saw is pretty evident; Whaley puts this giant box contraption on their heads that looks like something David Hackl might have made as a joke and then thrown away. The room he keeps them in even looks a bit like the room in Saw IV where Matthews is being held. At one point, Whaley puts them in a machine that seems stolen from The Princess Bride ("Not to fifty!"), and a later scenario with the hero is taken directly from Hard Rain. I'm sure that last one wasn't intentional, but that was an hour and ten minutes into the movie and the movie still hadn't done anything to earn a benefit of the doubt. In fact, the ONLY good thing I can say about the movie is that it's ten minutes shorter than advertised, since the end credits is over 10 minutes long (largely in part due to two behind the scenes clips inexplicably inserted into it).
Thankfully, the disc's only extra is a half hour (!!!) making of that covers all the usual bases. Silverstein and Barder frequently point out the short shooting schedule and limited budget, as if there was a demand for a sequel to a nine year old movie no one remembers. But even this is botched, because they hired Tim Iacofano to direct. See, he has directed a number of episodes of 24 and Supernatural, both of which have smaller budgets and shorter schedules and yet look 10x better than anything in this steaming pile, so there's REALLY no good excuse for the film's shortcomings. There is also a look at the stunts, and at this point I began to feel bad in advance for my review, because you see the stunt coordinator doing her thing, and I realized that for all of the "below the line" folks on the movie, the movie's failure is not their fault. They are just doing their job, and for the most part, doing it well (though would it have killed someone on the stunt team or camera crew to make sure the brunette hero's stunt double didn't have blond hair?). So I apologize to them. It's not their fault that this movie is so fucking bad, and unlike Silverstein and Barder, your names won't be an automatic red mark on future films (oh, yeah, I looked them up on the IMDb too; they were responsible for the equally abysmal Ring Around The Rosie).
The piece ends with actor Bart Johnson apologizing for wasting everyone's time, but he is only referring to the making of. Take him out of context though, and apply his sentiment to the entire DVD (which begins with a lengthy spot about the virtues of Blu-ray, despite the fact that it's in standard def and not even anamorphic), and you'll have an apology New Line will never offer, since they are too busy writing fake reviews that try to make this movie sound like anything but what it actually is: total shit.
What say you?