NOTE: This spoiler was sent in by Eric P, creator of the amazing Baconizer2000who says... "The tag line for this movie tells you half the story: "If the signal dies, so does she". Start with that as the concept, add the classic Hollywood constraint of having an ordinary Joe rise to an occasion dictated by circumstances out of his control, add the unstoppable bad guys and a genial seen-it-all LA cop, and the result can either be a turkey or pretty good. Fortunately, for me at least, I got my money's worth at tonight's preview."
Our story starts with Jessica Martin (Kim Basinger), walking her boy to the school bus stop. "Will you still be a science teacher when I'm in high school", he asks. She says how great that will be, that she'll be able to hug and kiss him whenever she wants. "Mom that is gross" he spits back.
But he smiles, Jessica reminds her son that she'll pick him up for soccer at 1:45, and then they smile and wave to each other as the bus pulls away.
Jessica's back home, at a palatial stone house with a big black SUV in the driveway. For a high-school science teacher, she seems to be doing okay, with this house and a kid at a private school. Plus a cleaning woman, who is quickly gunned down by a group of thugs who break down the backdoor window, throw Jessica in the van, and drive her up past the oil drills of the LA hills, tossing her into the attic of a house in the middle of nowhere. (Yes, this movie wastes no time getting to the plot.) There's an old-fashioned phone in the attic though - push-button, if you were wondering, but stuck to the wall. The main thug comes in brandishing a sledgehammer, Jessica lets out a gasp, he swings, and demolishes the phone to bits of plastic and wire on the floor.
Cut to the Santa Monica pier, where we meet Chad and Ryan (Chris Evans), two dudes who are majoring in hanging out doing nothing in particular. Ryan's dictating into his new cell phone that they're at the beach filming his latest bikini-riddled screen saver. He's about to go talk to a girl named Chloe, but Chad tells him not to. Ryan ducks off when Chad's not looking and catches up to Chloe. He wants to know why she didn't call him back. She takes him aside to deliver a lecture on how unworthy he is, which he records, while telling her he isn't those things anymore. She asks him why he's at the beach. He sees a sign pass by, and says he and Chad came down to volunteer for the Heal the Bay event. That's great, she says, handing him the box of flyers, and sends him off to pick up four boxes of T-shirts.
We see Chad talking to the "girl with nipples": "Chilly out today"? "No, not really." "I beg to differ".
We cut back to an anguished Jessica, putting together the phone, and the part about her being a science teacher starts to make sense. She starts tapping together wires, and actually gets a recorded message.
We move back to Ryan, watching the video of Chloe on his cell phone while driving. His phone rings, and it's Jessica - of all the phones she could have reached in LA, his is the one. She tells him she's kidnapped, but he thinks it's some kind of joke, and wants to switch to another call. But this is her lifeline to the outside world: "please don't hang up", she begs. Chad's on the other line, dressed in a whale costume,. He says it's great, because it lets him tell girls about whales' 12-foot-long members. And with that, he has to go. Ryan looks at his phone, and sees Jessica is still holding, so he switches back. "What's with the fake tears, lady?" Jessica lectures Ryan, telling him to go to the cops with the cell phone -- but he can't end the call, because she might not be able to get another connection to someone who can help her.
With that we turn to the local cop shop, where a genial officer Mooney, played by William H. Macy, is giving royal heck to a spa supply store for botching a shipment. They offered to send him loofas, but he said "loofas I have up my ass -- what I want is a refund." We learn from his conversation with Jack the senior detective that he and his wife are setting up a "day spa" -- after 27 years, he's seen it all and wants to move on. "Go have another donut", Jack tells him.
The TV news meanwhile is reporting another gangland execution of two men in Culver City -- looks like a gang war over the street drug trade. Ryan makes his way to Mooney, who thinks there might be a connection between this woman on the phone and the news report, and sends him up to Homicide. But for some reason I couldn't make out, a tussle breaks out in the waiting room. In the confusion Ryan tries to make his way up the stairs to Homicide. But it's an old building, the kind they used to make to withstand earthquakes, and at floor 3 1/2, he's losing signal, and can't go any further. He could set the phone down, maybe hide it somewhere, and go up on his own, but that would probably make the film too short, so he heads down.
Back at the attic, Greer, the main thug, is asking Jessica "where did he put it?" She doesn't know, and says, "You have the wrong family". So they go to get the kid. Ryan's listening to the whole conversation -- Jessica hides the phone bits under her sweater whenever she has company --- Ryan realizes that this call is no joke. The cops head off to the school to get the kid, and so does Ryan, Kim directing him along the way. It's 20 to 2, and as we remember, her son is expecting to hop into his mother's SUV at 1:45. So it's time for race against time, in LA time. Now I don't know what kind of school let's out at 1:45, but my kids would like to go there, no doubt. The boy's name is Ricky Martin, which sort of leads to a few jokes, as Ryan is running around a strange school asking people "are you Ricky Martin"? It's a private school, so they're all wearing blue shirts and khaki pants. But just when Jessica tells Ryan to look for Ricky's Lord of the Rings backpack, he calls for him just as the thugs pull him into the car.
Ryan had been arguing with the security guard during his chase, so he jumps into his car and drives off, with the keys conveniently left in the ignition. His phone is starting to lose juice, so he starts groping around for a recharger while chasing the bad guys, and finds the security guy's gun (mini-spoiler: he didn't leave anything else in there). He's tailing the SUV, but is cut off by a soft-drink truck that flaunts its coca-cola sign in Ryan's windshield like it was a placement sponsored by Pepsi. After a short drive down the wrong side of the highway, from which he emerges unscathed, he gets stuck in construction near a cell phone sale. So he drives through the mud and fences of the construction site ("you owe me big time for this", he tells Jessica), and runs into the cell phone shop, only to be told repeatedly to take a number. He returns to the car, gets the gun, and gets the charger.
Mooney's about to head off, puts the box of sponges on the car's roof, and sees a piece of paper on the windshield. He unfolds it, smiles, and... I don't think we see anymore of that, although detective Jack had invited him to join his squad. But Mooney does a search on Jessica Martin from Brentwood, and finds her house.
Next we see a woman's hand at the Martin residence play a message on the recording machine. Greer's phone rings, back at the house. He goes up to the attic, and tells Jessica they have her son. Her husband had left a message telling her to get Ricky and go meet him at the Left Field. Where's that, the thug wants to know. He takes a deep breath and tells her to go to the window. "Dimitri, bring him out", he says, and Dimitri pulls Ricky out of the SUV. "He's a baby!" she screams, and they fight, Ryan hearing it all. "Your son is dead", Greer says. "It's a bar in LA, at LAX", she says. "We got it", Greer tells Dimitri. "Put the kid in the garage." While they're talking in the attic, a woman in her 60s or so tools up next to Ryan in her convertible, generic rock music playing full blast. Ryan starts fumbling for the mute button, and Jessica starts talking more to try to squelch out the sound of the music coming from the phone bits. The thug pauses like something is up, but of course it couldn't be the phone, as he smashed it to bits. Ryan finds the mute button just in time -- he couldn't end the call, as there wouldn't be a number to call back.
Jessica gets back on the line, and tells Ryan to get to LAX. "After they find Craig, we're all going to die... I feel so helpless".
Cut to Mooney, in Jessica's driveway. He knocks on the door, and a woman with a slight Spanish accent answers the door, claims to be Jessica Martin, and acts like absolutely nothing is wrong. He goes, she gets on the phone to Greer: "It's Bayback -- we had a visitor -- a cop."
Cut back to Ryan, Jessica's describing Craig, but there conversation is muddled by crosstalk from another call. It's a nerdy lawyer, bragging about his Porsche ("0 to 50 in 5 seconds, but gets the pants off the girls in 3.2 seconds (or something like that). He tells Ryan to get off his line, telling him to "pull your subpoena out of my asshole" (yet another throwaway line in this film that just doesn't cut it). Now he's talking to Jessica, and she tells him she's been kidnapped. "You can't bullshit a lawyer... Gotta go, Mom". Now through the typical Hollywood technological fluke, the call is gradually shifting from Ryan's phone to the lawyer's. Ryan' pulls out the handy gun, carjacks the Porsche from the lawyer, and has the ride of his life. Until he enters a tunnel, and realizes he has to get out of there to keep the call alive. And we get to see just how fast a Porsche can drive in reverse.
Ryan gets to the airport and parks illegally near the SUV. Jessica has told him to look for a guy in blue jeans and a leather shirt. She also described the thugs, so he knows whom to avoid. Ryan pickpockets a boarding pass, gets behind the thugs, and drops his pistol into their security bin under their jacket. When the alarms go off and the security guards come running, Greer pulls out his detective badge and says "LAPD". As twists go, this is a little one, but it looks like we're in for another corrupt-LA-cop movie.
Ryan finds a guy matching Jessica's description, pulls him into the bathroom to talk with her on the phone, and he comes out telling Ryan that's not his wife. Just as the thug cop finds the genuine Craig and get him to walk off with him. We still don't know why, except that he's in real estate. They must have done something horrible to be able to afford a fancy house and private school tuition on those real estate commissions, supplemented by an American teaching salary.
Ryan runs out, only to see his car getting towed away. An airport cop is trying to link the carjacker with the tow-away, and hears Ryan utter "shit!" as he steps out. He starts running after Ryan, but it's too crowded, and would be too inconvenient to stop him now. Ryan catches a cab, updating Jessica on the situation.
Next we see Craig and Jessica reunited in the attic. "You've got the wrong family", Jessica says. But Craig corrects her: "This isn't a mistake". He tells them "it" is in his safe deposit bank, in Century City. As he leaves with the cops, she whispers "You'll have help at the bank". And Ryan tells the cabbie there's been a change of plans.
We see Mooney sitting with his wife, trying out the new mud treatments. He's not happy with how acidic the new facial is. On the TV there's a new report about this latest crime spree, pinning it on Ryan, who stole the Carrera, and then overpaid for the cell phone charger. Mooney gets Jessica's number, calls it, and gets an answering message that doesn't sound like the woman who answered the door.
And Ryan's stranded in traffic. He pays off the cabbie, and finds his way to the bank some other way. "Ryan, what are you going to do now", Jessica asks. "I don't know what's in it. I just know if they get it we're dead".
Ryan arrives at the bank at the same time as Craig -- the thugs still don't know who he is. He surprises one of the goons, and in the ruckus takes off with Craig's bag. He runs up the stairs to the roof -- must be a flimsier building, as this time there's no concern about the connection. During the chase on the roof he drops the cell phone 6 floors to the pavement, and Jessica's on her own. He manages to slide down a chute to a dumpster filled with foam hunks and manages to escape the cops. And this gives him a chance to find out that "it" is a camcorder. He finds a moment to play back a clip of Craig filming a commercial property for some kind of ad. He quickly says "oh my god" and turns to film the thugs shooting some lowlifes, directed by detective Jack, Mooney's friend. Ryan sees another Quicksilver tow truck, and realizing all is not totally lost, makes his way there to get the Porsche back.
Mooney is now at Jessica's office, casing the joint, and finding the broken full-length window in the back door. He pulls out his gun, shouts "Police", and steps in, only to be shot at. One of those indoor standoffs, so he does the old decoy in the wrong place with a broken fish bowl, pulls the woman out of her hiding place, gets her to shoot him, but he nails her square. "Who are you", he asks. "I'm a cop", and he finds the badge.
Ryan sees another Quicksilver tow truck, and thinks that maybe he can get his old cell phone in the lawyer's Porsche, if it's still there. So he gets there, just in time for the lawyer to bail out the car while insulting the cashier to the point that she doesn't bat an eye when Ryan drives off just as the roadster is set free. And there's his cell phone, under the lawyer's briefs (the paper kind).
The paramedic's are at Jessica's house, bandaging up Mooney. Jack's there, too. "I didn't know she was a copy", Mooney says. Jack asks what her last words were. "Nothing. She never had a chance."
Time we get back to the attic. One of the minor cops discovers Jessica trying to make another call on her phone setup, "You little bitch", and he takes a swipe at her. She picks up a shard of metal, and scratches his inner forearm. "So you want to play?", but then he notices his shirt is soaked with blood. Grade 10 science, she replies. That's the tracheal artery, and she tells him with the rate of blood loss he's about to have, he'll be done in a minute. "Bitch". "Sorry", she says, and takes off down the steps, hiding behind the garage.
Ryan's trying to get in touch with Jessica by using his call-return. First he gets the artist at the beach. Meanwhile, Jack calls Greer to tell him that Bayback is dead but Mooney doesn't suspect anything. Greer sends Dimitri and the other minor thug to the bank to get the security videos, so they can find out who Jessica's remote helper is. As they're about to leave, Jessica finds yet another car with the keys left in it, and drives through the garage to free their son. They're about to drive off, but Greer's holding a gun to her husband's head.
Greer's phone rings -- it's Ryan, who says he has the camera and the family. Greer threatens to kill the boy, but Ryan calls his bluff. "Then it's your loss. Nice talking to you", and hangs up, yelling at the phone to ring. Greer calls back, and offers to return the family safely. He wants to call the shots, but Ryan says "You do as I say", and directs him to the Santa Monica pier. Jack is wrapping things up at the Martin house telling Mooney that they've got the perp at Santa Monica, but they need Mooney to help ID him, as he was the only one who saw him. Mooney should go to the hospital to get his neck wound treated, but he naturally wants to wrap up the case.
The cops are at the pier trying to find out who's directing them. They try to flush Ryan out by telling him they can see the family clearly by looking in the van. But Ryan's disguised under a grey anorak, with a cell phone headset so they can't see him holding a phone, unlike practically every other person at the beach. But Chloe recognizes him, runs up, exposes his head, berates him for jamming out on the T-shirt delivery, and Mooney points him out. The cops get him, and Jack tells Dimitri to take Mooney to the hospital. On their way to the car, Mooney hears Jack telling Greer to get rid of the Martins over Dimitri's walkie-talkie, and they have a near-the-end-of-movie fight. Mooney wins, and gets Dimitri to handcuff himself to a fence near a merry-go-round, where Mooney tells the kids he was a very, very bad man. Jack and Greer get the tape from Ryan, and Greer smashes it on the ground (without checking it). They're about to take care of Ryan as well, but he dives off the pier into the ocean. Another chase, this time in the boathouse under the pier.
And now it's a showdown between Greer and Ryan, first face-to-face, as Ryan tries to knock Greer out with an oar, but he laughs, saying "the bitch has more fight than you". He also asks Ryan how he found out. "I just answer my phone". Mooney shows up to the rescue, pulls out his gun, and orders Greer to put his hands up and drop the gun. But Moore escapes, and they have another showdown. It's dark, no one knows where anyone is, and Ryan gets wounded.
Meanwhile, in the SUV, Jessica uses her knowledge of anatomy to use her handcuffs to strangle the minor cop-thug (not sure they ever call him by name). She pulls out the keys, and is about to free themselves.
Ryan figures that if he can answer his phone, he can call out too. Greer's phone rings, Mooney jumps out and shoots him dead, and Ryan comes out to show him he was the one making the call. They run back to the van, and help subdue the minor corrupt cop when he comes back to and pulls out his gun.
Jack is about to try to pin everything on Ryan, but Ryan explains what a wonder modern technology is, how he was able to copy the videotape onto his cell phone, and plays Mooney the clip of Jack overseeing the gangland execution. "Jack", Mooney says, "did I ever tell you how much I hate bad cops?"
Finally, Ryan and Jessica meet, amidst hugs and tears, with the best interchange in the whole film.