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The Cell...

Movie Review: The Cell
Starring: Jennifer Lopez, Vince Vaughn, Vincent D'Onofrio, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Jake Weber, Dylan Baker
Director: Tarsem Singh
Producer: Julio Caro, Eric McLeod

The Cell is a science fiction tale that propels a scientist, Catherine (Jennifer Lopez), and the viewer into the mind of a serial killer. An

experimental scientific procedure enables her to enter the mind of comatose patients, usually to help find answers to unlock their consciousness. When a serial killer falls into a coma before detectives can find his last known victim, Catherine is enlisted to enter the dark world of his mind to find the location of the "Cell" where he keeps and eventually kills the women who fall prey to his insanity.
Jennifer Lopez plays Catherine Deane, a psychologist involved in an ultra high tech form of therapy. Using a whiz bang machine, she can enter the subconscious of her patients. Decked out in a body suit that appears to be made of red Twizzlers, Catherine closes her eyes and awakens in the dreamscapes of her clients, where she wanders through trippy MTV style video sets, dispensing psychological bromides while wearing the kind of outfits that Cher and Madonna trot out for award shows.

The story begins within the mind of Edward Baines (Colton James), a comatose little boy. Set against blue skies and majestic desert

sand dunes, we watch as Catherine tries to win the trust of the child, hoping to eventually draw him back to the real world. The segment is impressively shot and, unfortunately, the high point of the film.
While Catherine strolls through the psychic Sahara, whacked out serial killer Carl Stargher (Vincent D'Onofrio) wages a terror campaign outside the lab, torturing women to death and then turning their corpses into animated dolls.
After the lunatic is captured and falls into a coma, straight arrow FBI agent Peter Novak (Vince Vaughn) turns to Catherine and her comrades for help. Somewhere, Carl's latest victim, Julia Hickson (Tara Subkoff)

is trapped in a huge torture tank that fills with water every few hours. The young woman is destined for a horrible death, unless

Catherine can enter his mind and discover the location of the lethal aquarium. The bulk of the movie hops between Catherine's forays into the killer's cranium and disturbing shots of a frantic Julia trying not to drown.
The makings of a solid film are present, but Tarsem is so fixated on creating groovy tripscapes that he neglects everything else. While Julia's situation remains dire, there is no sense of danger with any of the principal players. Character development is virtually nonexistent, leaving Lopez and Vaughn stuck in one-dimensional roles.

The Cell is certainly not for all tastes. In fact, it may not be for any tastes. Pure freak fans will likely be happy, but real moviegoers will probably be disappointed. For example, while the story is twisted enough to make any closet Lynchian giddy, there are enough stupid holes in it to make the entire go-inside-his-mind plot irrelevant. In the end, Carl's brain dump doesn't provide the clues to the cell's whereabouts, the answer is sitting right there in his real-world basement.


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