Movie Review: “The Call”

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 Man, emergency call dispatchers have it tough.

The Call movie poster image

Halle Berry still looks good – all colored red with a map on her face.


This was the sentiment that swirled around in my head as I watched Halle Berry attempt to thwart the evildoings of a serial kidnapper/murderer in the new thriller “The Call.”

Another thought I had was that if I ever owned a drive-in movie theater (don’t laugh at my dreams) I would put a double-feature together and show “The Call” along with that Colin Farrell flick “Phone Booth.” I might even throw in “When a Stranger Calls” and make it a trifecta. But I digress.

I don’t own a drive-in – and that’s something I have to live with – but I did get a chance to check out this fine piece of cinema that features the beautiful Miss Berry (complete with a full coif of curly locks) as a 911 operator who suffers a career-altering event during a call-gone-bad involving a teenager in jeopardy and then eventually gets a second chance to redeem herself when the same type of event occurs again.

The film starts out with Jordan Turner (played by Berry) living large and loving life. She seems to possess a knack for saying the right thing to panicked and troubled callers. She even has a sweet disposition when receiving multiple calls from one of her “regulars.”

Just a quick side note: I was under the impression that it was illegal to call 911 when you just wanted to “talk to somebody,” but I guess that’s irrelevant when it comes to this particular story. Anyway, back to Jordan’s wonderful life…

She has an attractive police officer for a boyfriend (played by Morris Chestnut and his awesome, Richard Roundtree moustache), not to mention the respect from her many operator friends and colleagues around “The Hive” – which is what they nicknamed the 911 Call Center, because that’s where the “busy bees work” – or something like that. Groan.

Then “the call” happens (wait a tick – that’s the name of the film – I get it now) and all of that goodness goes bye-bye. The content of the call involves a young, blond girl hysterically ranting to Jordan about how someone is trying to break into her house. Well, eventually the persistent assailant does manage to get in, which is where Jordan goes all Liam Neeson in “Taken” on the young girl and tells her to find a bed and hide under it. However, this is not before she instructs her to place some decoys around the immediate vicinity in order to fool the home invader.

After a minute or so of searching for the hidden teen, the bad guy spots one of the decoys and he starts to make his way outside of the house. Suddenly, the 911 call gets disconnected (she must have the same cell phone service  I have – I won’t say who) and Jordan, in a moment of bad decision-making, decides to call the teen back.  Well, needless to say, the call back doesn’t benefit the teen, as the creepy dude hears the phone, goes back upstairs and grabs the girl from under the bed and abducts her (no, I swear, this isn’t “Taken”). However, the teen does have the presence of mind to shout out, as she’s being abducted by the violent stranger, “He heard the phone riiinnnggg!”

Well, Jordan just feels terrible about getting the poor teen “taken” and

Halle Berry in "The Call"

The life of a curly-haired, 911 operator: I may look fabulous, but I feel tense. Just look at my red stress ball!

everything – not to mention that she got ripped a new one, by her boss, for her apparent “lack of focus.” In the following days, it just gets worse for Jordan, as the news flashes that the teen was found dead in an abandoned field somewhere. Ugh, talk about poor job performance – somebody write this woman up.

Anyway, as the obligatory “six months later” flashes on the screen, we learn that her immense guilt has forced Jordan to stop taking calls and she now teaches the art of the 911 call to prospective employees. Can you see where this going yet? Huh? Huh?

Well to speed things up, the same thing happens again to Jordan – and we later find out it’s the same guy, too – as another 911-calling teen named Casey (played by an “all growns up” Abigail Breslin, who spends most of the third act running around in a bra – these kids today) gets abducted, conveniently, while Jordan is giving a tour to her students. Cue the redemption, as Jordan spends the next hour or so, trying her damndest to save the young, shirtless Casey.

Quick side note: I just want to point out that seeing the little girl from “Signs,” who left all of those half-filled glasses of water (or were they half-empty?) around, frolicking about with her womanhood on prominent display, makes me feel old… and creepy. Creepy… and old. I just wanted to point that out.

Well, I don’t want to spoil what happens next, but Jordan’s overweight son dies and she has sex with Billy Bob Thornton to make her feel good. Wait… I’m sorry, that was “Monster’s Ball.” Speaking of which, Berry did win an Oscar for that performance in 2001. I can’t say that I see one in her future for “The Call,” but it’s not like she was “Catwoman”-bad here. Her performance was adequate, how ‘bout that.

As far as other performances here go, Michael Eklundwho plays the

Michael Eklund in "The Call"

I am ignoring all of the rules involving lighters and gas pumps, but I’m allowed to: cuz I’m a tad unstable.

 sick and twisted abductor Michael Foster, is, once again, right on the money in this film. He’s carving himself (phrasing) a nice little career playing the homicidal, disturbed sociopath. He is just so good at scaring the shit out of the audience with just a simple look, which he does more than once in this film. However, his character isn’t as frightening as some of the other villains he has played in the past. If you want to see some vintage Eklund, check out “The Divide” or “The Day” – especially the former. He pushes the word “psycho” through the glass ceiling and comes out the other side all bloody and smiling.

Breslin’s character of Casey, though, is basically one long scene of her screaming and running around half-dressed (I’m sorry, I know it’s the third time I’ve mentioned that). She spends the entire second act babbling and trapped in a trunk, so it’s not exactly “Little Miss Sunshine” – for which she received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress in 2007.

Also, in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo, check out Michael Imperioli as a concerned motorist, who sees Casey as she pours white paint out of a broken tail light and decides to confront the driver – who, unbeknownst to him, is our crazy kidnapper Michael. Things don’t go to well for the former “Sopranos” star, as his role can best-be-described as a human pin cushion/ piñata. Nice job dude, way to save the day.

Quick side note: I’m more than a little concerned that if somebody wanted to abduct another person they could watch this film as a kind-of instructional video on what to look for from your kidnapped victim. It basically gives away the 911 “tricks of the trade,” so to speak. However, I guess if somebody was sick enough to do something like this, they wouldn’t need a movie to push them over the edge. Everybody knows that you need video games for that.

Director Brad Anderson (of “Session 9” and “The Machinist” fame) does the best that he can do with Richard D’Ovidio’s (screenwriter of “Thirteen Ghosts”) cliché-ridden and groan-inspiring screenplay. Anderson does manage to create tension in a few key moments using extreme close-ups and some freeze-frame techniques. He also throws more than a couple of jump-scares in there, for good measure, which didn’t exactly work on a horror movie veteran like me, but some of my fellow audience members sure screamed loud enough.

However, the film does take an unforgivable turn at the end, by placing Berry’s character of Jordan in that oh-so-familiar position of vigilante/ stupid moron, who decides to take matters into her own hands. Again, I’ll use my fellow audience members as examples, as they spent the last 15-or-so minutes yelling at the screen for Jordan to NOT do the things she was doing. It was very similar to Jodie Foster’s Agent Starling in “The Silence of the Lambs” looking around for Buffalo Bill in that last scene – minus the night-vision goggles and the Oscar for Best Picture, of course.

Taking all of this into consideration, I can’t say that I really liked “The Call,” but I did have a good time watching it. Does that count as liking a film? I just don’t know anymore, but I will say this – Michael Eklund’s performance alone makes this film worthwhile. In my opinion, he has luminously bright future in Hollywood playing this kind of role. He reminds me of a more talented Billy Drago, as he just has this look in his eyes like, “I’ll kill ya – maybe not today or tomorrow – but, eventually, I’ll kill ya.” Again, just watch “The Divide” and you’ll know of what I speak.

Maybe, one of these days, I’ll put “The Call,” “The Divide” and “The Day” together and have a Michael Eklund triple-feature at my drive-in.

Hey, a boy can dream, can’t he?


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