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Awesome: 5.26%
Worth A Look: 10.53%
Pretty Bad: 36.84%
Total Crap: 0%

2 reviews, 7 user ratings

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Call, The (2013)
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by Jay Seaver

"Dialed in until things go bad."
3 stars

"The Call" is a B-movie with A-movie talent, and it's a surprisingly good one for a longer time than one might expect (director Brad Anderson's obituary will probably feature some variation of that phrase). It's got an ending that strongly favors going for a visceral reaction over making sense, which was frustrating to me but which some may see as a positive.

Six months ago, Los Angeles 911 operator Jordan Turner (Halle Berry) took a call from a teenage girl in the middle of a home invasion, only to see it end as badly as it possibly can. Now, still shaken by the experience, she's training recruits rather than manning phones herself when kidnapping victim Casey Welson (Abigail Breslin) calls from the trunk of a car, but she winds up taking point in the efforts to track and rescue Casey, with her patrol-officer boyfriend (Morris Chestnut) in hot pursuit of the kidnapper (Michael Eklund).

For most of the movie, the plot isn't fancy or particularly elaborate - you've got Jordan in the 911 control center ("The Hive") and Casey in the trunk of a car, circumstances preventing the police from locating the cell phone she's using exactly, and both of them scared but having to use their wits to find a way out of the mess. Anderson and screenwriter Richard D'Ovidio keep things easy to follow without treating the audience like idiots - here's a reason why the kidnapper didn't take the phone Casey uses, this shot ensures you remember something else ten or fifteen minutes later. The plot doesn't twist so much as it see-saws, which is probably the right call.

That's simple enough, and the execution is sleek. I strongly suspect that the real Hive isn't quite so polished and spacious as the one in the movie, but it's a nifty set which lets Anderson emphasize both the scale of what the people there accomplish and focus on the one-on-one interaction of a dispatcher and caller. The filmmakers do a nice job of giving the audience an idea of what Jordan does and how without going overboard on giving a tutorial. Outside the Hive, Anderson and company do a nice job of keeping things exciting without a lot of high-voltage chase or fight scenes. The violence is nasty enough to shock when it comes, and while sometimes Anderson hits the slo-mo/freeze-frame flourishes a little hard, it's more often done in a way that allows the audience to imagine the worst rather than linger on it.

The cast is on the same page. Berry and Breslin have both done more impressive work in more prestigious movies, but to their credit they neither just show up for their paycheck nor overdo things. They react just as emotionally as you might expect for a situation (be prepared for a lot of crying on Casey's part), and seem well-rounded enough that you can guess what they'd be like in other situations. Morris Chestnut and David Otunga do the same as the cops following Jordan's lead. The rest of the 911 staff gives the environment a little life, as to Michael Imperioli and the rest of the people Casey and her kidnapper encounter on the road. Michael Eklund kind of gets short-changed by this situation - like the rest, he's got just enough to make one buy in, but it makes his serial killer more a generic villain than a familiar individual.

It's all going pretty well until the end, which feels like the result of a studio note and/or reshoots, whether it actually is or not. The thing I'm thinking of would probably be a reasonable note, actually; for all it minimizes a good supporting character's role, it builds up the leads. The way that the finale plays out requires previously smart characters to do dumb things, along with nastier things showing up on-screen than had previously shown up in a movie that mostly offers pretty clean thrills. People do things that aren't necessarily out of character, but haven't been established as in character, in the service of a final "hell yeah!" moment.

Of course, a good chunk of the target audience probably wants that ending - it's not obviously wrong. It's just enough of a swerve from what the movie had been doing well up until that point to make it a disappointment, rather than the end of a pleasant surprise.

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originally posted: 03/19/13 13:23:03
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User Comments

9/27/17 danR Nice start, draggy ragged middle parts, cutout-psycho & silly meh revenge-ending trope 3 stars
2/23/15 stanley welles tense thrill ride before collapsing with a disastrously bad insultingly comedic finale 3 stars
10/25/13 Monday Morning Nice role for Imperioli - his career must be sucking air pretty bad. OK flick, tho'. 4 stars
9/20/13 joe movie typical reviewer when I saw this film in the states. audiences LOVE LOVE LOVED it! 5 stars
7/10/13 Langano Not bad 3 stars
7/05/13 mr.mike Brings enough thrills that you can forgive the improbable ending. 4 stars
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  15-Mar-2013 (R)
  DVD: 25-Jun-2013


  DVD: 25-Jun-2013

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