Reviewed by Ian Forbes
Here’s the plot of the new Halle Berry “thriller”, The Call: Some A-hole kidnaps Little Miss Sunshine and it’s up to Catwoman to leave her 911 cubicle and save her. Oh wait, that would have been an improvement on the actual plot: Some A-hole kidnaps a teenage girl (Abigail Breslin) and it’s up to Halle Berry to leave her 911 cubicle and save her. Wait …
Look, I’ll freely admit to heavily negative pre-conceived notions after seeing the trailer and initially thinking this wasn’t even a real movie, just some SNL/Online spoof. Then there’s the hilarious hairdo Berry is rocking which a friend of mine was able to duplicate via a night of battling food poisoning. However, there’s something I really, really, REALLY don’t want to admit about The Call: It’s not as terrible as I thought it would be.
Is that a ringing endorsement? Hardly. But I found the elements of the movie revolving around the 911 technology integration into dispatching emergency services slightly fascinating. Much of that is probably due to working both dispatch and call center jobs in my own past. I also enjoyed the set design of the 911 call center, it reminded me of Demolition Man … though I doubt that was what they were going for; and from a cost-effectiveness standpoint, it seemed like a lot of badly used space but it made for a slicker aesthetic.
Then we get to the performances and the plot. It’s a bit odd watching Abigail Breslin approach womanhood and the filmmakers shamelessly leave her running around in her bra for the last third of the movie in what seems purely an attempt to titillate (I’m conflicted about this pun). Still, she portrays the helpless and frightened teenage girl well and makes for quite a sympathetic character.
Michael Eklund is the sicko behind the abduction and while he’s essentially about as complex as your average Criminal Minds unsub (unknown subject), he hits all the necessary beats and you believe the mental instability clearly on display.
Then there’s Ms. Berry herself. Performance wise, there’s nothing here she hasn’t done before and there’s far too much focus on watching her unravel on the phones because of the emotional attachment 911 operators are supposed to avoid. As far as the script goes, she’s the fundamental flaw in the whole thing. The majority of the film sees her appropriately situated at the 911 call center. When she decides to play vigilante, all credibility and reality goes out the window and as ridiculous happenstances ensure she doesn’t have any police backup, my chuckling evolved into full out guffawing. She’s only a veteran 911 operator, who’s dating an LAPD cop working the same case, why would she bother to make sure to have a police presence while hunting down a sadistic killer? *face palm*
If I were simply giving this the rating I felt it deserves, it’d be below the passing grade. The final scenes simply turn into a complete and utter mess. It also doesn’t help that every single “twist” should be seen coming a mile away by anyone who watches even a modicum of procedural law enforcement shows. However, the screening audience ate this up like it was bacon-wrapped bacon; reacting to every predictable moment and for some reason worrying about the final outcome. Seriously, people were shuffling out of the theater talking about how much they loved it and would probably see it again when it opened.
I’m absolutely baffled but everyone has their own cinematic predilections and if box office numbers in the past decade are any indication, mainstream audiences are thrilled to see the same thing over and over again, and are just looking for 90 minutes away from real life. The Call apparently fits that bill and while I wouldn’t tell any of my social circle they should check this out, apparently if you find the trailer intriguing, you may like the end result. Also, while I was wrong about this being worse than The Incredible Burt Wonderstone I’m not going to lose sleep about that prediction. All I can say is good luck.
The Call opens in theaters on March 15, 2013 and is rated R for violence, disturbing content and some language.
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