Halle Berry starring in a film produced by WWE Films doesn’t exactly sound like a winning combination. Yet after watching “The Call” I left with more good feelings than bad, even if the 2nd half of the film becomes formulaic and drawn out. If you are a fan of psychological thrillers with a hint of brutality then this is your film. Halle Berry and co-star Abigail Breslin have a chemistry that harkens back to Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster in 1990’s “Silence of the Lambs”. Now don’t get me wrong, “The Call” is NOT an Oscar worthy film by far. In fact it’s a pretty flawed motion picture. There are continuity issues, plot holes, and questionable behavior by the characters. Even with those flaws, “The Call” still provides an entertaining 1 hour and 40 minutes. Imagine the movie is a piece of toast. There may be a little burn on the surface but once you scrape that off, it’s just as good. Let me explain…(Before I get started here’s a random yet interesting fact, this movie was formerly titled “The Hive”.)
Berry plays a 911 operator by the name of Jordan. The film begins with a typical day in Los Angeles. Judging by the 911 conversations L.A. is filled with drunken homeless men and wife beaters. Nonetheless, the fast pace of the operators and their swift ability to respond to emergencies is well played out in the opening scenes. It humanizes the characters by doing something radical, like taking AWAY their emotion and ability to have human feelings. The director Brad Anderson does a great job of showing the viewer how detached emotionally 911 operators must remain throughout their career. Jordan’s age or length of service is never mentioned in the film but you can tell she is a grizzled veteran. She has been around long enough to know the town drunk on a first name basis.
It did puzzle me that the town drunk would call 911 and somehow get the operator he requested each time. Seriously, there is a drunken guy in this movie whom continues to get thrown in ‘the drunk tank’. Somehow each time he gets arrested he uses his ONE PHONE CALL to give Halle Berry’s character a ring. It is very unrealistic, unless our Police Departments are taking phone call requests from public intoxication inmates. Ugh….okay now that I’ve gotten that off of my chest, back to the review.
Jordan’s day is going smoothly until she receives a call from a young blonde girl who is whispering about a man outside her home. One thing leads to another and the movie kicks off with a tragedy that could possibly have been caused by Berry’s character. She begins to unravel and fast forward some time later, she receives a similar call from a similar young blonde girl. The ‘new’ victim is Casey Welson as portrayed by Abigail Breslin. As with most psychological thrillers, the antagonist has a pattern or a preferred type of victim and “The Call” is no different. By the way, everything I just stated above is in the trailer, so don’t worry I’m not spoiling anything.
The first half of the film began with a feverish pace. At times it even seems like the perfect thriller for the digital age. The typical script follies of the past aren’t present during the first part of the movie. Gone are such things as having a character lose their phone or making the victim seem too helpless to fight back. I can say one thing for sure, Breslin’s character Casey was a fighter. She was also very intelligent for a teenage Cali girl. The ideas that her & Jordan come up with to provide an escape are simply genius. Anyone who expects to be placed in a car trunk should watch this movie as if it’s a public service announcement!
The bad guy in this film is a shallow, one dimensional character that I couldn’t wait to get merk’d (for those of you who don’t know what merk’d means, it’s hip hop language but I’ll provide the Urban Dictionary definition to the right). Michael Foster is the antagonist’s name and boy is he confusing. At times he seems like a slow half-wit that doesn’t really have control over his impulses. Just when you think he’s a victim of some horrible affliction that is when he begins to counter the best police tactics with his own James Bond-esque strategies. I still can’t grasp how Foster got out of certain sticky situations, but I guess it evens out due to the fact that his character also spent 30 minutes of screen time distracted by a loud radio. I digress.
The flaws of this film go beyond the flimsy bad guy. Continuity issues distract the viewer as several times during the film. Breslin’s cell phone ends the scene in one location just to miraculously end up in her pocket by the beginning of the next scene. Also there is about a 20-30 minute climax that seems to go on 15 minutes too long. You have a struggle that seems to end just to have it begin again. Director Brad Anderson runs that cycle about 3 more times by simply switching up the location and choice of victim to put in the way of harm. This may not have been so bad if the script didn’t all of a sudden make Jordan & Casey ditzy helpless women. This is a stark contrast to the strong and willing characters from the first 45 minutes of the film. Sorry it’s just hard to believe that the heroic 911 operator Jordan would take it upon herself to hunt down the killer, yet when confronted scream like a little girl. Its 2013 people, it’s time our characters either have balls or don’t! Its hard for the viewer to believe in a character who is Superman one minute and Woody Allen the next.
“The Call” is a worthy rental but you may not want to save the number.