Call, The: Trashy High-Concept Thriller, Starring Halle Berry

Though meant to be a taut, edge-of-your-seat thriller, “The Call” serves mostly as a star vehicle for Halle Berry, who seems unable to find suitable roles for her beauty and her talent.

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This is yet another Halle Berry trashy suspenser, an exploitational fare that’s more suitable to be made and released by Screen Gems than by the parent company Sony Pictures.

Considering the kinds of scary stories we watch daily on our TV screens about real-life 911 incidents, and TV shows like “Law and Order,” “The Call” has such a preposterous and lame narrative that even a skillful director like Brad Anderson cannot do much but service the material and hope that the viewers will check out their brain and reason at the door and go for the ride.

The screenplay is written by Richard D’Ovidio, who had previously penned the equally disappointing “Exit Wounds” and “Thir13en Ghosts,” from a story written by him, Nicole D’Ovidio, and Jon Bokencamp (“Perfect Stranger”).

Nominally it’s a tale of the sudden, complicated relationship (and ultimately bonding) of two women, fighting or survival albeit in different ways. Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine) is now a teenager, though I hope this is not her coming of age feature and that she will fulfill the promise she had shown in previous roles.

The tale begins reasonably well: Breslin plays a teenage who becomes a kidnap victim, whose survival depends entirely on another woman, Jordan (Berry) or rather voice of a woman, which belongs to a compassionate, dedicated and steady employee, who’s forced to marshal all the resources within her limited space and confined position in trying to find the missing girl.

In the first scenes, we get a good, realistic portrait of what the job of Jordan, a vet operator at the busy 911 Emergency Call Center, entails. It’s the kind of position that’s constantly under serious pressures, to say the least, dealing as it does with matters of life and death, navigating the public’s distress while facing dilemmas that often need immediate decisions.

When a young woman’s frantic report of a prowler ends tragically, Jordan is devastated. Reassessing her life, Jordan wonders if perhaps she’s experienced her last fraught-filled phone call. Really?

You won’t expect a woman like Jordan to have much of a private life, but she does. Her boyfriend (Morris Chestnut) is a supportive cop, who won’t mind if they spend more time together, that it, if Jordan steps back and teach others the ins and outs of her high-pressure profession.

When an American teenager named Casey (Abigail Breslin), is abducted by a serial killer (Michael Eklund), she still manages to place a 911 call from the trunk of the killer’s car. (You have to suspend considerable disbelief to buy into this premise).

It “just happens” that Jordan is leading a group of new recruits through the massive Call Center operation, when the call comes. At first, it feels routine, an all-too familiar scenario for an experienced public servant like Jordan.

However, it soon becomes clear that Casey’s situation is anything but ordinary. The one thing Jordan can do is take charge, command in a way she’s never done before. To help Casey, Jordan must turn the girl into a cooperative partner in helping them track down the killer, and prove that this call is Jordan’s calling.

Berry, who looks terrible in her new curly coiffure, renders a dominant but disappointing performance, one that relies heavily on hysterical gestures. Ultimately, “The Call” is just as trashy high concept pyschological thriller as all of Berry’s forays int the genre over the past decade (ever since she won the 2011 Best Actress Oscar), including “Gothica”” and “Perfect Stranger.”

The acting of the supporting players is decent. The villain (Eklund), it turns our, is a tortured psychopathic killer with a fetish, who’s also a family man well respected in his community, Morris Chestnut plays Jordan’s supportive police officer beau, and David Otunga his overzealous partner. “The Sopranos” star Michael Imperioli is a limo driver whose day intersects with the kidnapper’s.

To some extent extent, “The Call” benefits from its respect for the three unities of time, place, and action. Most of the story occurs in the course of one day–several hours, really–and the action is restricted and contained in terms of space, switching back and forth between the call center and the trunk of a car.

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