Blu-ray Review: The Cell

By , Contributor
The concept of virtual reality figures prominently in a pair of recent Warner Bros. Home Entertainment catalog titles making their debut on Blu-ray. The 1995 Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe sci-fi actioner Virtuosity is one of them, while the other is the Jennifer Lopez thriller The Cell. From the minds of director Tarsem Singh (2015’s Self/Less) and writer Mark Protosevich (the 2013 Oldboy remake), The Cell feels a lot like ersatz Guillermo del Toro. That’s not a criticism, either. While a master filmmaker like del Toro might’ve made The Cell one for the ages, director Singh crafted a compelling phantasmagoria that, among other things, proves Jennifer Lopez was once capable of choosing interesting films to star in.

The basic concept is that a new, highly experimental treatment exists for psychiatric patients: the psychiatrist is able to go inside of her patients’ minds, via a virtual reality enabled by some fancy wiring and electrodes. Dr. Catherine Deane (Lopez) is in the midst of helping a young comatose, schizophrenic patient when she’s tasked with the unenviable job of entering the mind of a serial killer. The psychotic Carl Stargher (Vincent D’Onofrio) is in a coma and cops are seeking one of his missing abductees whom they believe is still alive. By melding with Stargher’s mind, they hope Deane can discover the victim’s whereabouts.

While the narrative is a bit too unwieldy, with subplots that might’ve been trimmed, the visual inventiveness is what makes The Cell a somewhat underrated film. Vince Vaughn turns up in an all-too-rare dramatic turn as Special Agent Peter Novak. It’s actually Novak who’s the impetus for Dr. Keane’s journey into the darkness of Stargher’s mind. While this was far from mainstream stuff for those accustomed to seeing Lopez is fluffier fare like The Wedding Planner and Maid in Manhattan, it’s a twisted trip down the rabbit hole for those with patience and a taste for the bizarre.

Warner Bros.’ Blu-ray offers a solid presentation of Paul Laufer’s colorful cinematography. Some of The Cell was filmed in the Africa country of Namibia and the exotic scenery looks fantastic in high definition. DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio makes the most of the film’s eerie sound design.

A full slate of extras are ported over from a previous DVD special edition of The Cell: two audio commentaries, eight deleted and extended scenes, a ‘making of’ featurette, and a series of six visual effects breakdowns that offer alternate angles (with explanations) of the film’s visually trickiest segments.

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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