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Can you hear me now?

By Dan Fletcher

“Cellular” New Line CinemaDirected by David R. EllisScreenplay by Chris MorganStarring Kim Basinger, Chris Evans, Jason StathamRated PG-13

Two out of five stars

High-speed car chases, earth- shattering explosions and reckless gunplay are saving graces for fallen films. Sadly, no amount of testosterone-fueled carnage saves the cinematic soul of “Cellular.”

Built upon classic sentimental foreshadowing, Ryan (Chris Evans), the film’s beach-bum-turned-benevolent-hero, is introduced while pleading a newfound responsibility to his ex-love, Chloe. Departing on a crusade of errands to prove his devotion, the focus shifts from Ryan to Jessica Martin (Kim Basinger) kissing her son goodbye and waving to the departing school bus with a gleam of maternal concern. The emotional climax this early in the game makes it clear that the sky is about to fall.

Moments after returning home, a gang of well-dressed thugs bursts into Jessica’s Hollywood home, shoots her maid and throws her into the back of a van. Cast into a gloomy attic, the lead henchman, played by Jason Statham (of unintelligible “Snatch” fame) smashes a telephone on the wall and topples the first domino in a long line of convenient twists and turns that fuel “Cellular’s” direction, but can’t steer it clear of glaring plot holes.

After a period of schmaltzy emotional breakdown, Jessica comes to her senses and dives into MacGyver-like ingenuity. Tapping the deceased phone’s wiring together, she immaculately dials Ryan’s cell phone. Immersed in his quest to regain lost love, Ryan is skeptical of Jessica’s claims. Yet his incubating sense of duty strikes a nerve and sends him to the nearest police station for help.

On arrival, Ryan hands the phone to an officer played by William H. Macy. While Macy’s performance saves the scene, a gang riot ensues, and his character can’t save the day.

In lieu of patience, Ryan transforms in an instant from slacker hippie to stalwart hero. This Clark Kent-like metamorphosis propels our protagonist on a journey through the war zone that is rush hour Los Angeles: to rescue the Martin family from certain doom.

The ensuing montage of gratuitous action and B-grade comedy slowly makes it clear that where cinematic integrity fades, mayhem is employed to divert attention.

Of course, no amount of pyrotechnic pleasure could possibly mask chronicles of angles left unrequited in this film-i.e., plot holes. These include, but are (definitely) not limited to the hero’s inability to employ police help and the list of inexplicably convenient occurrences that come to the rescue of movie’s flow.

Even worse is the potential squandered in the film’s production. Originally a story penned by seasoned fright writer Larry Cohen (“It’s Alive,” “Phone Booth”), “Cellular” was passed onto the desk of script rookie Chris Morgan.

I don’t know who, but someone dropped the call on that one. Even the shining support performances of William H. Macy and Jason Statham barely break through the dark clouds of inconsistency.

Imagine battling 90 minutes of accident-instigated rush-hour traffic while being stuck behind a caravan of catty celebrities chatting on cell phones, and you’ll get a pretty good idea of all that “Cellular” has to offer: two out of five service bars, and an overpriced bill to go with it.

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