By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Here’s the 411 on this 911 flick.
The Call is a suspense thriller about a dedicated emergency telephone operator confronted with a criminal from her past.
Halle Berry stars as veteran 911 operator Jordan Turner, who works in the busy Los Angeles Police Department’s emergency call center known as The Hive (the film’s original title).
She’s still guilt-ridden because she inadvertently caused the death of a young girl six months ago following an abduction, after which she took a much-needed leave of absence.
Now, back on the job but as a teacher in the training unit, she steps in to help out when a rookie operator receives a distress cell-phone call from a teenager, played by Abigail Breslin, who is locked in the trunk of a speeding car because she has been similarly drugged and abducted.
Jordan struggles to avoid history tragically repeating itself, coaching the terrified youngster through a series of moves meant to tip off passersby.
But what Jordan soon realizes is that the caller is the serial killer who took the life of the woman six months ago.
The supporting cast includes the gifted Breslin in the thankless, crying-and-screaming role of the kidnap victim, Morris Chestnut as Jordan’s cop boyfriend, Michael Imperioli as a limo driver trying to be helpful, and Mickael Eklund as the sociopathic abductor (the latter much more of a movie construct than a believable person).
The director, Brad Anderson (The Machinist, Transsiberian, Session 9, Happy Accidents, Next Stop Wonderland), uses energetic cross-cutting between the call center and the trunk of a car to maximize the tension early on, and we feel we’re on our way to a nail-biting, edge-of-your-seat exercise in suspense.
But then the film pretty much gives up on itself with a third act that goes about as far wrong as an otherwise respectable movie can.
The script by Richard D’Ovidio -– based on a story by Richard and Nicole D’Ovidio and Jon Bokenkamp –- is in the vein of an ordinary person in extraordinary circumstances. No problem there. But as the narrative proceeds, Berry’s everywoman lead character comes to behave in ways that suggest not just an action heroine but a superheroine.
Even that approach might get by if those moments didn’t alternate with others in which Jordan does things the audience will find so ill-advised as to be moronic.
And these disconnections make the film’s finale decidedly less interesting and more preposterous than what has preceded it.
Unfortunately, Berry’s track record since her 2002 Oscar win for best actress in Monster’s Ball has been anything but distinguished. And, once again, she’s a credible actress who’s better than the script she’s been given — although she should be used to that by now. Although screen acting may be her forte, choosing superior material is definitely not.
So we’ll dial 2 stars out of 4 for an initially suspenseful but rigidly one-dimensional and eventually outlandish genre piece. Worth seeing? You make the call.