MOVIES

Close Call

Halle Berry’s new film dials up the suspense, but then drops the connection

Veteran LAPD phone dispatcher Jordan Turner (Halle Berry) attempts to save the life of an abducted teen (Abigail Breslin, not pictured) in “The Call,” directed by Brad Anderson.
Sony Pictures
Veteran LAPD phone dispatcher Jordan Turner (Halle Berry) attempts to save the life of an abducted teen (Abigail Breslin, not pictured) in “The Call,” directed by Brad Anderson.
Sony Pictures
Veteran LAPD phone dispatcher Jordan Turner (Halle Berry) attempts to save the life of an abducted teen (Abigail Breslin, not pictured) in “The Call,” directed by Brad Anderson.
Sony Pictures
Veteran LAPD phone dispatcher Jordan Turner (Halle Berry) attempts to save the life of an abducted teen (Abigail Breslin, not pictured) in “The Call,” directed by Brad Anderson.
Sony Pictures
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Starring: Halle Berry

Directed by: Brad Anderson

Stars: 2 1/2 out of 4

Rating: R

Here are some other phone-related thrillers to consider:

“Cellular” (2004): Kim Basinger stars as a kidnap victim with a marginally functioning cellphone, and Chris Evans is the skeptical young man who receives her emergency call and commits himself to rescuing a stranger despite numerous obstacles.

“Phone Booth” (2002): Not only is this a gripping thriller about a man (Colin Farrell) trapped in a phone booth by a sniper (Kiefer Sutherland), it's educational for younger viewers who otherwise may never know what a phone booth is.

“When a Stranger Calls” (1979): Carol Kane stars in the classic horror tale of a babysitter who receives creepy phone calls and reports them to police, only to be told that the calls are "coming from inside the house."

“Law & Order SVU,” Season 7, Episode 3 (2005): OK, it’s not a movie, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a better phone-based drama: Detective Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) takes a call from a 9-year-old girl, claiming to be locked in a room, and convinces skeptical co-workers it's a legitimate kidnapping. Hargitay won an Emmy for her performance.

The part in the “The Call” that is, in fact, centered around a phone call is a gripping, fast-paced thriller following the chase for a serial killer.

Unfortunately, like so many phone calls, things don’t go so well after the hangup.

LAPD phone center dispatcher Jordan Turner (Halle Berry) makes a key error handling a 911 call about a break-in that's linked to the murder of a teenage girl. The event leaves Jordan too shaken to handle calls, and she's reassigned to train new recruits.

Six months later, a still-traumatized Jordan returns to the call-center hot seat when teen Casey Welson (Abigail Breslin) is kidnapped from a downtown shopping mall and thrown in the trunk of a car. The killer doesn’t know that Casey has a second cellphone, so she’s able to call 911 moments after the abduction, which launches an immediate search.

Berry and Breslin deliver strong, believable lead performances and are aided by a reliable supporting cast, including Morris Chestnut as Jordan’s police officer boyfriend — who leads the pursuit of the killer using the information coming from the call — along with Michael Eklund as the killer and Michael Imperioli as a good Samaritan driver.

“The Call” is riveting and believable throughout the extended call and chase sequence.

After the phone call ends, the movie keeps going.

The final 20 minutes of “The Call” breaks down into an assortment of movie clichés, logic gaps and horror film tricks. Writers Richard and Nicole D’Ovidio didn’t seem to have a plan on what to do with the movie once the call and chase concluded.

The first breakdown comes when Jordan decides to leave the call center and go off to investigate on her own without telling anyone — in classic B movie fashion. How convenient for her that the police left the killer’s cabin when they didn’t find him there, not posting an officer there in case he should return, so Jordan can prowl freely around the cabin and grounds searching for clues.

The movie shifts from thriller to horror movie in the final minutes as our two heroines face off against the extremely mentally disturbed and seemingly indestructible killer.

Though the ending is nothing but a series of clichés, it appears to be a crowd-pleaser, if the cheers of the group watching the film with me were any indication.

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