THE CALL – The Review
I appreciate an honest B-movie. They’re fun, escapist and usually worth the time spent watching them. Should they be taken seriously at all? They certainly should, at least while you’re watching them and if you can suspend disbelief for 90 minutes or so, a good thriller works as well as anything cinema offers. Brad Anderson’s THE CALL is a rapid-fire little thriller, the sort of film that presents an impossible premise and yet remains mostly believable, at least until it crashes on the rocks in its final act.
Halle Berry stars in THE CALL as Jordan who works the phones at ‘The Hive’ which is what she calls the Los Angeles Police Department’s 911 call center. The film opens with her receiving a call from a young woman who’s hiding under her bed from an intruder intent on abducting her (she should have called Liam Neeson). When disconnected, Jordan calls her back, alerting the creep to her hiding place. When he gets on the line, she tells him “You don’t have to do this”, to which he replies “It’s already done”. The girl’s body is found a couple of days later. Six months pass and Jordan is now training applicants for the dispatcher job she formerly had. She can’t handle the pressure of the phone banks after the earlier tragedy but she’s forced to heroically don that headset again when The Call comes. Teenage Casey Welson (Abigail Breslin), has been drugged and kidnapped from a mall parking garage, and awakens in the trunk of a car speeding down the freeway, but the only phone she has is the non-traceable pre-pay type. It’s up to Jordan to suddenly become super sleuth and save Casey from the man – named Michael (Micheal Eklund), whom she realizes is the same killer from before.
Taking a clever (albeit farfetched) B-movie idea and giving it slick A-movie treatment, THE CALL reliably entertains for its 95-minute running time, packing a lot of thrills into a short space while keeping tension high. The script by Richard D’Ovidio has just enough complications to be surprising without stretching credulity too far—though it eventually relies a little too heavily on serial killer conventions. Some of the more suspenseful scenes come when Michael must stop his car and encounter others while poor Casey attempts to make her presence known. Much of the air is let out of the film when they leave the highway and finally arrive at the destination, an isolated charnel house straight out of every other serial killer movie. Despite all of L.A. looking for Casey, Jordan is the only one to figure out this location where she shows up solo. It’s this last 20 minutes where the film tries for SILENCE OF THE LAMBS and fails with Brad Anderson’s direction only emphasizing the movie’s hysterics, rather than its suspense. It’s a shame that the climax is so routine (okay, ridiculous) because up until then the film is giddy with suspense. The movie knows it’s ludicrous, but it’s paced so relentlessly that you don’t have time to dwell on implausibility. The leads are adequate – they do what the script requires of them, but not a lot more. Berry (who looks like she’s been sharing Carrot Top’s hairdresser) does a lot with her fists – clenching them and slamming them on her desk and such. Miss Breslin does a good job of making us feel her terror but it’s startling to see Little Miss Sunshine half-naked tortured with a scalpel. Micheal Eklund’s villain is given backstory motivation – something about inappropriate feelings toward a cancer-stricken sister, but he’s ultimately just a generic high-strung psycho. THE CALL is fun, exciting and occasionally nasty enough to remind you that it’s taking itself seriously. Recommended.
3 1/2 of 5 Stars