Review: The Call

Let it go to voicemail

After the unexpected pleasures derived from Dead Man Down, I was all set to cut wrestling impresario Vince McMahon's WWE Studios' followup production some slack.

All the leniency in the world can't get me to recommend that you heed The Call.

Halle Berry, Academy Award-winning actress, former Bond girl, and Catwoman wagers her reputation on a shameless "teen-in-trunk" exploitation drama.

I come to bury Halle, not praise her.

Berry stars as Jordan Turner, a veteran LAPD 911 operator suddenly plagued by a mean case of the guilts. She hit redial after accidentally being disconnected from a call and the ringing on the other end led the prowler to the teenage victim's whereabouts.

Jordan's brief, yet fatal, lapse in judgement results in the kidnapping and subsequent brutal death of the young girl. It also fails to impress her boss (Roma Maffia) who quickly demotes her to training new hires. A co-worker, fielding a call from Casey (Abigail Breslin), a kidnapped teenager stashed in the trunk of a moving car, cracks under pressure just as Jordan and a tour of potential dispatchers she's escorted through command center look on. If for no other reason than to set a good example (and move the plot along), Jordan is forced to set aside her neuroses and once again assume the hot seat.

Jordan tries to distract the young girl by asking Casey to name her favorite movie. When the answer came back Bridesmaids, I suddenly found myself cheering for the bad guy's knife.

Initially, the villain (Michael Ekland) is revealed in brief swatches -- a tight close-up of his sunglasses, shaky images reflected in the rear view mirror, etc. When the camera finally pulls back far enough to reveal the junior league Ed Gein, Ekland gives us nothing more than gritted teeth, palms pressed to throbbing temples, and mildewed cries of "Why do you make me do this?"

The one line repeated throughout the film is the dispatchers phone greeting, "911, where's your emergency?" In the case of The Call, you can start with a script that goes out of its way to present the viewer with more of the same. Ditto for Berry who mustered up more grueling emotion in her showboating two minute Oscar acceptance speech than in all of The Call.

Brad Anderson (Next Stop Wonderland, The Mechanic) took over direction duties after Joel Schumacher backed out. Too bad. If anyone could have turned this sow's purse into the unintentionally uproarious silk ear it could have been, it's Schumacher.

As implausible as it may sound, once the kidnapper deposits Casey inside his torture shack, Jordan kicks the crummy dust of Command Central off her shoes and gets in on the action.

For you drooling pervs in the audience, 16-year-old Little Miss Sunshine spends the third act clad in nothing more than jeans and a turquoise pushup bra. I was willing to laugh at The Call right up until the finale. Exhausted victims -- Berry and Breslin miraculously find the strength to become victimizers and turn on their assailant -- is as pandering as it is ghastly. Needless to say the crowd broke out into simultaneous applause.

Reader Rating: Zero Stars

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