Review: The Call


Let’s just get the hair out of the way. I’m not sure if Halle Berry though she was starring in a blacksploitation movie from the 70s or maybe she shaved her head and could only find a bad wig, but clearly something went wrong with her stylist in this film. The hair is bad to the point of distraction.

Now that we’ve cleared that up, how about we talk a bit about the film itself. This movie just didn’t look very good from the outset, but you had to be slightly intrigued that Brad Anderson, a master at suspense (check out Transsiberian or Session 9) was directing. Given some talent the concept could actually be pretty thrilling. Guess what. It actually turns out to be for the first two-thirds of the film. Then the movie finds the largest shark in the world, hops on its motorcycle and jumps it only to veer back around to jump it again. 

The Call
Director: Brad Anderson
Rated: R
Release Date: March 15, 2013 

The Call makes me wish I could judge a film by quantifiable amounts. If two-thirds of a movie is good and the last third isn’t then that film should at least still be decent. Unfortunately, when a movie goes this wrong you can really separate the ending from the rest of it and you’re stuck having to say that the whole thing was pretty bad thanks to a solid thirty concluding minutes that go from ridiculous to guffaw-causing lunacy. I like to believe that Anderson simply left the film after the first part and washed his hands of the conclusion since it is so completely different. He did his best with the good stuff and now we’re on our own.

That good stuff is actually surprisingly enjoyable and tense. The Call focuses on Jordan Turner (Halle Berry), an LA 991 emergency phone operator working in “The Hive” where all incoming 911 calls go. Jordan finds herself on the phone with a teenage girl, Casey Welson (Abigail Breslin) who has been kidnapped an locked in a trunk. Four a solid hour the movie is a decently thrilling chase as the kidnapper attempts to get away and Turner attempts to help Welson figure out a way to escape from the car. If it had kept going like this you’d be reading a very happy review, but instead the film suddenly changes pace and turns into a horror/revenge movie as Jordan goes chasing after Casey and her kidnapper. Things get really weird and really stupid.

Anderson actually keeps the dual locations of “The Hive” and the trunk of the car incredibly tense for a phone conversation. Tight shots of Casey as she’s locked in the trunk keep the viewer guessing what is going on and Berry has enough skill to keep talking on the phone interesting. There’s a quick pacing that keeps things interesting as the police desperately search for the car and the story, believe it or not, is pretty clever if not entirely believable. Things are working here.

Cut to black. No. Really, there’s a 3 second cut to black that can be interpreted as nothing else than a warning to not go on from here.

Once Jordan gets up from behind the desk the film completely loses track of itself. For some reason things spin off towards horror and the well plotted movie begins to make absolutely no sense. At one point the film needs to get Jordan into the bad guys evil, underground layer without calling the cops so they have her drop her phone into it. Yes, that’s the kind of story this movie concludes in. The only saving grace is that it shuts off with one heck of a one-liner, unfortunately almost completely ruined by the fact that the audience is laughing too hard at the plot to really hear it. 

Breslin does give a give a strong performance as well, shedding off her adorable Little Miss Sunshine look to show us she has some range and that she isn’t a little girl anymore. Of course anyone who saw Zombieland already knew the former part. Her and Berry play off each other well even if they aren’t actually playing off each other thanks to the fact that they’re almost never on the same set. Meanwhile, Michael Eklund goes crazy as the kidnapper taking every cue he can from the book of crazy people cliches. It’s no wonder that the movie becomes a joke once his character actually gets some screen time.

I’m not sure what happened to The Call because there’s a good thriller in her that gets absolutely bludgeoned to death by someone trying to turn it into a revenge film. I keep envisioning a producer walking onto the set one day and, having heard a brief plot description, saying that Halle Berry should totally get out from behind the desk and kick ass. Everyone rolls their eyes until they realize he’s serious and then they just sigh in resignation and go ahead and ruin the movie their making. It probably didn’t happen that way, but I like to believe.

Matthew Razak
Matthew Razak is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Flixist. He has worked as a critic for more than a decade, reviewing and talking about movies, TV shows, and videogames. He will talk your ear off about James Bond movies, Doctor Who, Zelda, and Star Trek.