*** (out of 5)
March 15, 2013
Halle Berry as JORDAN TURNER
Abigail Breslin as CASEY WELSON
Morris Chestnut as OFFICE PAUL PHILLIPS
Michael Eklund as MICHAEL FOSTER
Directed by: Brad Anderson
BY KEVIN CARR
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As I watched Brad Anderson’s new film “The Call,” I couldn’t help but shake the feeling that it was a movie destined to be made in 1997 with Wesley Snipes. However, the world then went through a time warp and spat the film out in 2013 with Halle Berry.
It certainly has that late-90s action feel to it. That was a time of buddy cop films in urban settings. It was a time of schlocky vehicle pieces that could star a big name who once got an Oscar ten years before. It was a time when teeth-grindingly bad dialogue was a plus in a thriller vehicle and the villain could chew the scenery without a mask. Heck, cell phones were even around at that time, so it would have been perfect.
Seeing it in 2013 makes it a little jarring, but if you can get into the spirit of the film, it’s a hell of a lot of fun.
It’s not that “The Call” is a great movie. It’s not even a good movie. There is no doubt that it’s a bad movie, but that doesn’t mean that I wasn’t entertained. And if the point of a movie like this is to entertain – whether it does so by how it was meant to or not – then it’s a thumbs up in my book.
In “The Call,” Halle Berry plays Jordan, a 911 operator who finds herself on the phone with a teenage girl who has been kidnapped. As Jordan tries to talk through the situation, she soon (or rather not-so-soon) realizes this is the same kidnapper and serial killer who had abducted and murdered another girl who Jordan received a 911 call from several months earlier. Using technology, police pursuit and clever tricks to alert bystanders of a kidnapping victim, Jordan and the authorities try to track down the killer before he disappears for good with the girl.
The dialogue is often terrible and laughable in this movie. Often times, the plot takes bizarre twists and features completely nonsensical character points (like Jordan’s beat-cop boyfriend who somehow ends up in the role of the lead detective in the case, uniform and all). However, this is the sort of cheese you’d expect from a run-of-the-mill crime thriller from the late 90s.
The biggest odd-man-out in this entire film (aside from being produced by WWE Films, which is usually reserved for its own star vehicles) is director Brad Anderson. Going back to the time warp theory, I can only guess that Anderson was doing this early in his career before he made much more coherent and respected films like “Session 9,” “The Machinist,” “Happy Accidents” and “Transsiberian.”
In a way, Anderson seems like a hired gun on this film. There’s no real style exhibited, save for standards point-and-shoot layout of a standard thriller. He does get a bit gluttonous on the freeze frame moments during violent action, but that’s not something I’ve ever seen him do. Can we blame that jarring style on his WWE bosses on this one? I’ll excuse it for the rest of the hilarity this film brings.
The acting in the film is nothing to write home about, and that’s a shame considering it stars an Oscar winner (Berry) and an Oscar nominee (Abigail Breslin as the kidnap victim, who is disturbingly sexualized in the film). Don’t expect Berry to win another Oscar for this one, though.
Still, some props do go to Michael Eklund as the uber-creepy kidnapper, whose acting choices range from the brilliant to the cheeky. He’s enjoyable to watch, and he is the stand-out performance in this film.
Last year around this time, the film “Gone” tanked at the box office, and probably for good reason. But I thoroughly enjoyed that film because it seemed like the director was in on a joke to make the most cliche and overtly unsubtle film ever made. I enjoyed “The Call” for similar reasons, only there is no doubt in my mind that this time it wasn’t a work of meta-genius. It was just cheesy filmmaking.
But again, the point of a movie is to entertain, and entertain “The Call” does. So what if that entertainment value comes from unintentional hilarity and silliness? In the end, “The Call” is a great movie to get drunk watching, while yelling at the screen and laughing like a hyena.