Sunday March 17, 2013 11:53 PM
The Call is a halfway decent thriller during the first and second act before it takes a nosedive into the land of ridiculousness and improbability. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a film so eager to self-destruct during its last twenty minutes.
I sincerely hope the ending is the product of coked-up paranoid producers forcing the project into an unnecessary reshoot after they got cold feet and thought they had to slap together an unholy combo of Silence of the Lambs, Saw and Hostel. If this was the finale the filmmakers had in mind when diving into this project wholeheartedly, they need to get their heads examined.
Halle Berry is Jordan Turner, a 911 operator with a hunky cop boyfriend (Morris Chestnut). During a call about a house invader, she loses her focus and causes the victim, a teenaged girl, to become captured. After the girl’s body is found, Jordan transfers to the training unit, until the same killer kidnaps another teenager (Abigail Breslin, all grown up) and Jordan is the only one qualified enough to help her.
The set-up could have been turned into a very straightforward yet powerful thriller, which could have used its minimalism to full advantage. The best scenes in The Call revolve around the girl calling 911 while trapped inside the killer’s trunk and close-ups of Berry on the phone trying to guide her to safety. Like a two-location version of the underrated Ryan Reynolds film Buried, which takes place completely inside a buried coffin, this premise that screams "minimal location thriller" could have worked with those restrictions.
But of course no chances are taken with the approach with fears that it might alienate the members of the audience who need everything conveniently spelled out for them, then packed up neatly and tied with a pretty ribbon.
So we have to know about Berry’s back-story and her relationship with the cop as well as tying the two kidnapping incidents to the same killer. We have to know exactly why the killer is hunting blonde teenage girls (And the reason is beyond ridiculous and way too convoluted) when the simple fact that he’s a psychotic killer could have sufficed.
And then we get to the ending, when the visual dynamism of the 911 calls are left behind in favor of a revenge fantasy and a generic thriller ending full of characters making decisions so dumb, they erase every smart move they made since the beginning of the movie. Their morals also take such a sudden 180 turn that might give the audience whiplash. Without spoiling much, I highly doubt a person who have devoted their life to law and order, with a cop for a father, would ever make that decision so lightly.
For some reason, The Call was produced by WWE films, which usually put out straight-to-video action flicks starring wrestlers on their contract. I couldn’t help but think how much better The Call would have been, even with the screenplay kept as it was, if the killer was played by The Undertaker.