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The Cell

Trapped in The Cell

By Jennifer Young

Directed by Tarsem Singh

Written by Mark Protosevich

Starring Jennifer Lopez, Vince Vaughn, Vincent D’Onofrio, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Jake Weber, and Dylan Baker

Rated R

The advertisements declaring that The Cell is a hybrid between The Silence of the Lambs and The Matrix could easily mislead the average movie-goer into believing that it could be a thought-provoking look into both the deadly entanglements of a criminal mind and the consequences of mind-probing technology.

Movie-goers, take heed: the only thoughts it provokes are those of revulsion. I left this film feeling both genuine physical pain and a desire to expunge the images that I was forced to endure. The film is a protracted excuse to display strange outfits and bad acting in as disgusting a way as possible, while never actually engaging the viewer’s interest.

Jennifer Lopez, who showed promise in Out of Sight, brings little to her poorly written role as Catherine. The heroine works for a medical institute where she uses a new technique to enter the mind of a comatose boy to wake him. Nightmares plague her, and her failures are making the boy’s parents skeptical. As a cookie-cutter heroine, she wants to take personal risks to help the child, only to be stopped by her superiors, who tell her it’s too dangerous.

These seemingly poignant scenes, which are supposed to show us how sympathetic and noble she is, are cut repeatedly with revolting images of Vincent D’Onofrio and his escapades as serial killer Starger. Finally, the inevitable occurs: when Starger collapses in a schizophrenic coma, he is brought into the medical institute, and Catherine offers her services to probe his mind and find out where his latest victim is hidden. The victim is trapped in “the cell,” a chamber that fills with water over a forty-hour period.

Catherine not only enters Starger’s mind, but becomes trapped there, and is rescued by Vince Vaughn, who is truly forgettable in his role as FBI agent Peter Novak. Within the mind of the killer, thoroughly perverse images of mutilated dolls and strange, dank looking locales seem engineered to provoke vomiting. I can only hope that the discontinuous, disturbing scenes were contrived by someone using drugs, and a lot of them. The visuals are admittedly well-done, but they are squandered on images that contribute nothing toward a coherent whole.

After Vaughn unlocks the secret to where the girl is kept and goes to save her, the ever-sympathetic Catherine stays behind, presumably to help Starger, but more probably as an excuse for the movie to hurl more bizarre images at the audience.

After I left the theater and managed to stop thinking about the many strange body-piercings and mutilations that occurred on screen, the truth sank in: the film had very little plot, or good dialogue, or uplifting moments, or pathos, or anything redeeming at all.