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Smyrna/Clayton Sun-Times
Movie review: 'The Call' falls apart after riveting start
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The Call
911 operator Jordan Turner (Halle Berry), armed with a flashlight, decides to go after a killer on her own.
March 15, 2013 6:25 a.m.

The Call

 

Some things go very wrong in this film. For one of the characters, it happens right at the beginning, just after she makes a call to 911 in Los Angeles. Young blond-haired Leah (Evie Thompson) gets through to veteran 911 operator Jordan Turner (Halle Berry) just as someone is smashing his way into the frightened girl’s home. Jordan does almost all of the right things, making only one small error, and Leah is eventually found in a shallow grave.

Six months later, on anxiety meds and having transferred from live phones to the 911 Training Unit, Jordan is explaining the rules of the job to a new batch of operators, when another call from another young, blond-haired woman comes through. Things have gone wrong for her. She’s been kidnapped, she’s in the trunk of a speeding car, she’s calling from a disposable cellphone that can’t be traced. When the operator freaks, Jordan jumps in, back on the job, ready to do it right this time.
 
Frightened, hysterical Casey (Abigail Breslin) is in the trunk, and in what becomes a phone relationship between a victim and the person who’s trying to save her, Jordan successfully calms her down, gets her to start doing the kinds of things that will get that car noticed by police who have no clues as to its whereabouts.
 
Up to this point, the film is tense, nerve-racking. There’s a really creepy sequence done in shadows, filmed in a way that we can’t get a clear picture of the perpetrator’s face. The music is loud, the trunk is more confining than any trunk should be. Jordan and the cops and, of course, Casey, keep getting lucky breaks which, in turn, keep getting thwarted. The viewer is drawn in. This is gonna be a nail-biter.
 
But while things continue to go badly for the characters (the grim, calm kidnapper inexplicably turns into a raving, screaming sweating loony), they also go wrong for the film, which suddenly falls apart.
 
It’s as if, at the halfway mark, they fired the competent screenwriter and put a far-more violence-minded sloppy one in his place. But no, this is all credited to Richard D’Ovidio, whose most recent credit was the really dumb remake of “Thirteen Ghosts.”
 
Plot elements start getting tossed off, with no understandable explanation for why they happen.
 
There are a confusing couple of minutes in which finally-revealed kidnapper Michael Foster (Michael Eklund) stares at old photos of a young blond-haired girl – presumably his sister – who’s wasting away in a hospital bed. But how that leads up to his hobby of kidnapping and murdering young women with the same hair color remains a mystery.
 
In short order, the mood becomes gruesome, with a few scenes that are horrifically violent for the sole purpose of being horrifically violent. We already know what this guy is capable of; we don’t need to see more of it.
 
And here’s a great idea: Have the 911 operator, who’s trained to talk on the phone, go out on the road at night, armed only with a flashlight, to try to find the guy herself. The film’s denouement sends all credibility down the tubes. Its ending is ludicrous.
 
Ed Symkus covers movies for GateHouse Media.
 
THE CALL
Written by Richard D’Ovidio; directed by Brad Anderson
With Halle Berry, Abigail Breslin, Michael Eklund
Rated R
 


 

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