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The cell

Threat advisory: High - High risk of entertaining activities

Movie propaganda

Enter the mind of a killer.

Meet Carl Stargher.

Within the confines of an abandoned rural farmhouse, Stargher (Vincent D'Onofrio), a psychologically disturbed killer has built "The cell", a glass-encased chamber where he drowns his innocent female victims before continuing a sadistic post-mortem ritual with their bodies.

As the FBI finally closes in on the killer, he is rendered comatose by a violent seizure and is ultimately apprehended into their custody, but not before leaving his latest victim alive in the cell with only forty hours to live. Unfortunately, only Stargher knows where she is...

Enter Catherine Deane.

Deane (Jennifer Lopez), a child therapist, is part of an advanced neurological study at the Campbell Centre, a research division of a large pharmaceutical company, where she's been using her empathic abilities along with breakthrough technology to enter into the mind of a catatonic young boy to help bring him back to his loving parents.

While FBI agents Peter Novak (Vince Vaughn) and his partner Gordon Ramsey (Jake Weber) follow clues to uncover the missing girl's whereabouts, the FBI enlist Catherine to use her gift to embark on an uncharted and perilous journey through Stargher's demented mind.

Persons of interest

  • Jennifer Lopez .... Catherine Deane
  • Vince Vaughn .... FBI Agent Peter Novak
  • Vincent D'Onofrio .... Carl Rudolph Stargher
  • Jake Weber .... FBI Special Agent Gordon Ramsey
  • Dylan Baker .... Henry West
  • Marianne Jean-Baptiste .... Dr Miriam Kent
  • Patrick Bauchau .... Lucien Baines
  • Gerry Becker .... Dr Barry Cooperman
  • Tara Subkoff .... Julia Hickson
  • Catherine Sutherland .... Anne Marie Vicksey
  • Jake Thomas .... Young Carl Stargher
  • Colton James .... Edward Baines
  • Dean Norris .... FBI Agent Cole
  • John Cothran Jr .... FBI Agent Stockwell
  • Jack Conley .... FBI Agent Brock
  • Kamar De Los Reyes .... Officer Alexander
  • Mark Protosevich .... Screenwriter
  • Tarsem Singh .... Director

Cinematic intelligence sources

Intelligence analyst

Special Agent Matti

Theatrical report


As far as being a serial killer thriller, The cell does pretty well: good guys, bad guys, hunting, hiding, despicable crimes and honourable designs. thrills, clues, horror and gore. What you'd expect and what you want. What takes The cell outside the genre is the breathtaking imagery and soundtrack; it's like What dreams may come for bad guys.

Jennifer brings an earthy, humane quality to Catherine which lets you believe that there can be "good" inside a man as "evil" as Carl. Looking beyond the violent front to the root of his psychological problems (in this case parental neglect and abuse) is as automatic for her as not looking past his crimes is for Gordon. While some of you might think it's simplistic to say that a neglectful and abusive childhood causes serial killers I will tell you that with good parenting you end up with a lot "nicer" offspring. The next time some old fogey complains about the younger generation you should tell them that their parents and grandparents are to blame. That'll shut them up quick smart.

Meanwhile, Vince has come a long way from wise-cracking Trent in Swingers. In The cell he's a good guy in the process of burning out. Normally, Hollywood gives you good guys who have burnt out and need to rekindle their flame for truth, justice and the American way so it's good to find one who's drowning and doesn't know at which straw to clutch. It makes Peter a lot more vulnerable and a lot more desperate, and his empathy latches on to Catherine like a babe to the tit; it also makes him the obvious one to go in after her when she gets caught in Carl's delusions. Not that you didn't know he wouldn't have to, heroes and heroines always have romantic inclinations and sexual tensions but it's entirely believable that he does it and that he can't ride in on a thundering steed and that he almost dies in the process.

Vincent isn't on-screen much - he tends to wander around like a stunt double - but he does a good turn in serial killer mode and has some great make-up (if you like piercings you'll love what he's done with his body).

The cell does some great things for cinema and for entertainment despite being not being a "great" film. If you go see it you'll enjoy it, if only for its spin-out value. If you don't see it you'll have missed out on a very different film.

Security censorship classification

MA 15+ (Medium level violence, adult themes)

Surveillance time

105 minutes (1:45 hours)

Not for public release in Australia before date

DVD retail: 12 September 2001
VHS retail: 12 September 2001

Cinema surveillance images

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