3/21/2013 - Halle Berry is so bad-ass she can kick butt via phone in The Call, a caffeinated bit of mostly satisfying junk food.
Jordan Turner (Berry) is a 911 operator who handles emergencies and tragedies like a cool customer — that is, until a teenage girl calls to say a man is in the process of breaking into her house. Jordan helps the girl hide while the cops are on their way but then makes an error in judgment that causes the situation to end badly and Jordan to lose her nerve for answering calls.
Six months later, we see her walking a group of newbies through the call center. Jordan is now a trainer advising future operators not to get emotionally involved. But then, as she walks by the workstation of a green young operator, a call comes in from another teenage girl, Casey Welson (Abigail Breslin). Casey was at the mall with a friend but, while headed to her car in the parking garage, she was grabbed, chloroformed and stuffed in a car trunk. With a friend’s prepaid cell phone (making it hard to trace her), Casey calls 911 for help. Eventually, Jordan comes on the line and finds herself as the girl’s only hope for escape.
Is The Call good, you ask? No, it is not “good” by any traditional definition of good — Berry won’t be winning another Oscar for her performance here, the story is not particularly innovative (even the kidnapped-victim-calling-for-help thing has been done before: Cellular, for example), I don’t feel like I’ve received any special look at the world of 911 operators. But lots of things (Bones, all the CSI variations — to name just two comfort-food-ish police procedurals off the top of my head) are not particularly smartly written or interestingly acted but still watchable enough that I’ll seek them out, maybe even DVR them. There are times when you need your entertainment to just happen in front of you and not require a lot of extra work from you. You will never ask yourself “what is the movie trying to convey here?” in The Call. You will never think, “ah, this is a new way of looking at the world in which we live” or “wow, I am blown away by the truths about the human condition examined here.” I got exactly as deep as, “I guess my parents were right not to let me go to the mall as a teenager” and “I probably won’t let my daughter go to the mall either; man, she’s gonna hate that.” Otherwise, I let the movie do its thing — it didn’t need me to reach into my soul for deep thoughts or even need me to pay all that much attention.
That said, it does a decent enough job at keeping up the tension level. I don’t want Little Miss Sunshine to die horribly and I want to see the creepy bad guy (who is so Creepy Bad Guy that he might as well wear a T-shirt that says “Ask Me About My Serial Killings!”) get the smackdown. Halle Berry seems like she still needs a few more courses in bad-assery to earn her degree from the Denzel Washington School of Regular Guys Kicking Butt. However, her certificate in Liam Neesonology (with core curriculum in “I will find you and I will kill you”) is paying off, and she could do a lot worse than the run of action-and-investigation style thrillers that someone should be making for her right now.
The Call is not worth scraping ice off the windshield for, not when your On Demand library of recently broadcast CBS crime shows offers you almost exactly the same thrills with an only somewhat less interesting cast. But someday, not too long from now, when you see this on FX, and you’re looking to forget the troubles of your day with a movie that you will also likely forget moments after you watch it, hey, that’s what The Call is all about. C+
Rated R for violence, disturbing content and some language. Directed by Brad Anderson with a screenplay by Richard D’Ovidio and a story by Richard D’Ovidio, Nicole D’Ovidio and Jon Bokenkamp, The Call is an hour and 36 minutes long and is distributed by TriStar Pictures.