WWE Studios produces two types of movies: 1) Straight-to-DVD movies featuring wrestlers in starring roles that only people that watch WWE programming hear about and 2) Movies starring big name actors with wrestlers in smaller supporting roles that get theatrical releases and marketing campaigns. The Call is the most recent entry to fall into the latter category.
Halle Berry (who I’m starting to think has a hard time saying no to roles) plays 911 operator Jordan Turner, a seasoned veteran who is always cool under the pressure of the high-stress job. That is, until one day when she takes a call from a teenage girl with an intruder in her home. One misstep by Jordan results in a horrible outcome and she is so shaken and devastated that she can no longer do her job.
Jordan takes a position as a trainer instead, teaching new operators what and what not to do (for instance, not to do what she did that one time). While showing the rookies around the “Hive,” that would be the call center, a recent hire (who probably should have received a bit more training, so I guess Jordan’s not so good at that job either) receives a call from another teenage girl in a similar situation. Panicked, the operator looks to Jordan to take over and try to save the young girl, who happens to be locked in a trunk of car with a non-traceable prepaid cell phone (the reason she has one of these phones is explained through a somewhat clunky plot contrivance, but I appreciated that the effort was made since every teenage girl in America has an iPhone). Jordan vows not to let the same thing happen twice.
I have to say, once that second call came in and the hunt began, I was literally on the edge of my seat with an elevated heart rate for the entire duration of the call itself. Aside from a few weird and showy choices in cinematography (freeze frames, sped-up shots), director Brad Anderson (The Machinist, Boardwalk Empire) creates almost unbearable tension and nail-biting suspense, inter-cutting between scenes of the kidnapped girl (Abigail Breslin), quick-thinking Jordan, and the vicious psychopath kidnapper (Michael Eklund). It’s brutally relentless in the best possible way with a few genuine jump-out-of-your-seat moments. It delivers on the thrills, which is everything you can ask for in a thriller.
“HELP, this is not one of those gag arms!”
I also enjoyed watching the scenes of the 911 call center. Though I’ve never been inside one, it seemed realistic enough to believe the filmmakers did their research and the snippets of all the day-to-day calls coming in were fun to witness.
Apparently this kind of thing is very common.
Halle Berry, timelessly gorgeous even with a *Chia Pet on her head (*credit to fellow Movieboozer Felix Felicis), turns in a performance that’s enough to redeem herself from her last on-screen appearance in the disastrously horrid Movie 43. She carries the bulk of the film with a believable combination of toughness and vulnerability.
“I am a non-glamorous everyday woman, just look at my hair!”
It’s always nice to see a strong female protagonist and here we are treated to two. Abigail Breslin is in the process of making a smooth transition from child star to future leading lady and does a great job as the victim Casey. Michael Eklund as the creepy bad guy almost successfully achieves what Matthew Fox was going for in Alex Cross. The supporting cast features the dependable Morris Chestnut as Jordan’s cop boyfriend and David Otunga (the obligatory WWE wrestler cameo, showing promise as actor despite not given much to do) as his partner. Michael “Christofah” Imperioli picks up a quick check as a good Samaritan in one of the film’s most tense scenes.
Unfortunately, once “the call” ends and the movie shifts to its final act, all the good that has been established thus far goes down the shitter fast. Real fast. It deviates so much from the strong first two-thirds that it feels as if The Call is actually two different movies spliced together, with the second being one of those 90’s straight-to-video Silence of the Lambs copycats. It is so ridiculous and formulaic that I had to stop myself from yelling “Oh come on!” at the screen several times. Every cliché is there: Secret serial killer bunker? Check. Conveniently left out in plain view photos which clue us in to the killer’s past? Yup. One of those jewelry boxes with the ballerina that plays the creepy music? Of. Fucking. Course.
Can I take a break here for a minute and rant a little bit about the use of ballerina jewelry boxes in movies? Why is this still a thing? How many hundreds of times has this been done in horror movies and psychological thrillers? I am so goddamn sick of ballerina jewelry boxes. Every time cops are searching a sadistic murderer’s secret killing room, there’s that damn little box. And they always feel the need to open it. Like, what do they think they’re going to find inside? Besides a stupid spinning plastic ballerina? And it’s always wound up. Like the murderer knows they’re going to find his secret killing room and open the jewelry box so he winds it up beforehand so the music will play when the box is opened but only enough so that it will start playing slower, slower, and slower at just the right point when the crackerjack cop has a revelation and realizes just how sick and twisted the murderer is. Sometimes the ballerina jewelry box will already be open and playing the music when the cops walk in—how is this possible? You can only wind those things up so much. It can’t possibly play for that long. Maybe it’s booby trapped and there’s a string on the door that opens the box when the cops walk in so it will start dramatically playing? I don’t want to think about this anymore, but every time I see this lazy-ass prop prominently displayed in a scene such as the one in this movie, I can’t help it. GET A NEW DAMN IDEA AND STOP WITH THE BALLERINA JEWELRY BOXES ALREADY!
While Jordan up until this point has been established as flawed and sometimes reckless, letting her emotions get the best of her, she still seems to have actual working brain cells. However by the end she does a total 180 and loses her damn mind doing stupid thing after stupid thing. It’s completely out of character considering she spent the majority of the film making smart decisions (for the most part) and it’s beyond frustrating to watch.
Also during this time is when the plot holes become very obvious, while earlier in the film, it seemed that great care was taken to answer any question that may pop into a viewer’s head. In contrast, during the final half-hour all I could wonder is why the police would just leave a house owned by the suspected killer unattended and unlocked for anyone, especially a suddenly batshit vigilante 911 operator, to go Nancy Drewing around in.
This all leads to the inevitable final showdown, which, without going into spoilers, is comical at best and irritatingly ludicrous at worst, but then…
…just when you think it’s over, it manages to get even more asinine with an unnecessary groaner and I mean a GROANER of an ending.
I’m assigning a final beer for the uneasiness I felt at the gratuitous and lingering shots of Abigail Breslin’s (bra-clad) breasts. I get that the killer is a creepo and all, but I’m just not ready to see Little Miss Sunshine’s boobies.
I’m so conflicted on this one. I would wholeheartedly (well, unless you have a heart condition), recommend the thoroughly enjoyable and thrilling first half of the movie and I’d even recommend seeing it in a packed theater for the collective audience reactions, but on the other hand it gets so stupid at the end that I can’t in good faith tell you to part with your hard-earned money.
Maybe if you have one of those discount coupons and then leave and sneak into another movie after the call hangs up…
Yeah that’s it. Do that.
Take a Drink: every time a pop song from the 80’s plays.
Take a Drink: every time there is a freeze-frame.
Take a Drink: every time someone says “911, what’s your emergency?”
Take a Drink: whenever David Otunga gets a line of dialogue.
Take a Drink: every time Jordan does something stupid.
Do a Shot: STUPID BALLERINA JEWELRY BOX!
Do Another Shot and Make It a Double: at the ending. Trust me, you’ll need it.