THE CALL is at first richly rewarding but turns preposterous in the end.
WWE Studios is making a name for itself. A full-fledged production studio known mostly for its wrestling franchise, WWE has suddenly appeared boasting top-name talent and two films this year alone. And while our review for Dead Man Down wasn't entirely positive, Halle Berry's THE CALL seeks to change perceptions by wanting to produce a gripping and intense thriller. Unfortunately, it fails to stick out a consistent effort at the end and instead delivers one of the most disappointing third acts in recent memory.
At first, the plot sounds sounds intriguing: After a home invasion call to LAPD 911 operator Jordan Turner (Halle Berry, Die Another Day) turns tragic, the killer returns to claim another victim, forcing a distraught Jordan back to work. In fact, the first 60 minutes of this film excels with almost every effort it makes, seamlessly balancing tension, humor, and a quality backstory while creating an absolutely enthralling villian courtesy of serial killer Michael Foster (Michael Eklund, 88 Minutes). He delves into the deep end of psychosis by stalking, capturing, and torturing young women that look suspiciously like his dead sister, including his newest prize Casey (Abigail Breslin, Zombieland). It's only after Jordan's re-entry from training new recruits to active duty that any hope of finding the girl is resurrected. But as we ride along with the trunk-bound Casey (who strangely isn't tied up until near film's end), the third act goes completely off-track as Jordan leaves the call center to actively search for the killer. Yes, a person with no military or police experience, and with no weapon other than her bushy hair goes off into the wilderness to do something no other LAPD officer can apparently do. The result is one of the most disappointing and disconnected endings I've seen.
Director Brad Anderson (The Machinists) certainly has an eye for creating close-quarter shots that bring us face to face with terror. He and Writer Richard D'Ovidio (Thirteen Ghosts) craft a visual palette early on with all the precision of a master artist, drawing us in with relatable human emotions of closure, regret, and a sense of duty when we see terrible things happen to good people. When Jordan fails, we want to help her cop boyfriend Officer Phillips (Morris Chestnut, Ladder 49) to ease her pain. But it's that third act which breaks any credibility which The Call had quickly built. This film didn't need the horror plot to muddy the excellent drama that had been presented. Yet, that's exactly what we get, as Jordan and Michael meet in a sequence that seems more appropriate for the torture porn of the Saw movies than this production. It's almost as if two completely separate films were somehow Frankenstein-ed together into a train wreck that comes out swinging but runs out of steam at the worst possible time Intensity in a film can be a double edged sword - too much of it can leave some underlying aspects of the film on the side of the road. In the case of The Call, several characters disappear before their real value can be utilized. Beyond our trio, everyone else is nothing more than distracting wallpaper, especially Phillips, who should have exercised a more aggressive role at the end.
What begins as a riveting, intense thriller degrades into an Act 3 that's as preposterous and absurd as anything I've seen this year. As I stood outside with a colleague afterwards, we tried without hope to understand the disaster we witnessed unfold. That's probably how many moviegoers will react after seeing The Call, a film with so much on its side but which delivers so little in the end. The Call is rated R for nudity, language, and scenes of intense situations and has a runtime of 90 minutes.
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