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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Review: The Call

This is 911 – What is Your Emergency?

By Chris Sabga



Release Date: March 15, 2013 – U.S.
Rating: R
Genre: Thriller
Running Time: 94 minutes
Director: Brad Anderson
Writers: Richard D'Ovidio, Nicole D'Ovidio, 
Jon Bokenkamp
Cast: Halle Berry, Abigail Breslin, 
Morris Chestnut, Michael Eklund, 
David Otunga, Michael Imperioli


Imagine being a 911 call operator who has to face life or death decisions all day, every day, over the phone. That's what Jordan Turner (Academy Award winner Halle Berry) deals with every time she goes to work. The calls are generally mundane and manageable: A neighbor is in trouble. Can I have directions? Eeek, a bat! But then there are those situations where a young girl is home alone and a dangerous killer is about to break in.

The first incident, involving a pretty teenager named Leah Templeton (Evie Louise Thompson), traumatizes Jordan.

Six months later, it happens again. Another young teen, Casey Welson (Academy Award nominee Abigail Breslin), is kidnapped from the parking lot of a mall. Her captor (played by the usually creepy Michael Eklund) locks her in the trunk of a car and speeds through the freeway. Luckily, she has a cell phone.

Jordan once again gets involved. While she mans the phone line, two police officers – Paul Phillips (the always reliable Morris Chestnut) and Jake Devans (WWE wrestler David Otunga) – hit the streets in search of the missing girl and her kidnapper. It's more than just another routine job for Phillips: he's in a relationship with Jordan and wants to help her.  

Along the way, the creepy kiddie-snatcher crosses paths with another driver on the road, who has to be the world's biggest idiot (Michael Imperioli from "The Sopranos" in a thankless role). Christopher – his "Sopranos" character – lost in the woods is sharper than this dimbulb. I realize his stupidity is supposed to add to the suspense, but it's a colossal waste of Imperioli's talents.

However, Halle Berry does an outstanding job, using only her voice and body language to convey a wide range of emotions: from detached professionalism to passionate conviction to downright fear – all in the course of a single phone conversation.

Abigail Breslin is equally as good with her pitch-perfect portrayal of a scared little girl locked in the trunk of a madman's car.  

The lesser-known Eklund is also superb, becoming more and more unhinged as the film progresses.

Pro wrestler David Otunga isn't given much screentime, but he's smooth and charismatic – a definite natural. His charming, likeable character is a nice contrast to the smarmy, coffee cup-cradling corporate kiss-ass he embodies on Monday Night Raw. It's definitely one of the better performances by a wrestler in recent memory – even if that is faint praise when put up against the likes of Randy Orton and John Cena, both of whom could double as Hacksaw Jim Duggan's 2x4 because they're so wooden. No current WWE star has come close to Andre The Giant in "The Princess Bride" or Rowdy Roddy Piper in "They Live" (does The Rock still count now that he's a legitimate movie star?), but Otunga – like The Miz – definitely shows something.

"The Call" is the latest in a long line of movies from WWE Studios, whose history and ratio of quality is definitely hit-or-miss, to say the least. Thankfully, this is one of its best efforts (and certainly its most financially successful). Casting top-notch actresses like Berry and Breslin made all the difference. It helps, also, that the movie remains more or less plausible – at least until the last half-hour, which takes Berry's character in a completely illogical direction. The ending (which I won't spoil) is even more ridiculous. Some people will be fine with the final act, but I found it silly – it's very much reminiscent of a wrestling storyline between a beloved "babyface" and a hated "heel" – and it completely trivializes the roles of Chestnut and the WWE's Otunga. 

Still, despite some nitpicks, there's actually a lot to like and recommend here. For the most part, "The Call" is very successful at what it sets out to do. It's a fast-paced thriller that's fun to watch and features great performances.  

1 comment:

  1. Very good review of "The Call." I haven't seen it yet but I have wanted to since I saw the first trailer and this review made me want to see it even more! Good job, Chris!

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