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The Independent Critic

 STARRING
Halle Berry, Abigail Breslin, Morris Chestnut, David Otunga, Michael Imperioli
DIRECTED BY
Brad Anderson
SCREENPLAY
Jon Bokenkamp, Richard D'Ovidio, Nicole D'Ovidio
MPAA RATING
Rated R
RUNNING TIME
94 Mins.
DISTRIBUTED BY
TriStar Pictures
DVD EXTRAS
making-of featurette; commentary with Berry, Breslin and the filmmakers. Also, on Blu-ray: alternate ending; deleted and extended scenes; Michael Eklund audition tape; featurettes: "A Set Tour of The Hive and The Lair" and "Inside the Stunts."

 "The Call" is almost a good thriller... 
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 Halle Berry drives me crazier than does Cuba Gooding, Jr. 

Cuba Gooding, Jr. is a good actor whose post-Oscar Award life has become fodder for industry jokes and Oscar Awards Curse editorials. The actor has consistently chosen either low visibility or just plain awful projects since picking up his award for Jerry Maguire, an award that was seemingly deserved yet has become suspect in recent years thanks to Gooding's complete inability to offer up anything resembling a similarly resonant performance. 

Berry? Berry's career is downright maddening. While I've never really fancied myself a diehard Berry fan, the actress is undeniably talented yet almost stunning in her inconsistency. For every really terrific and award-worthy performance from Berry, we get a handful of either just plain awful or simply underwhelming cinematic efforts. 

Welcome to The Call, a film that was certainly never intended to be Oscar bait but could have been and should have been a really decent thriller. The film stars Berry as Jordan Turner, a 911 Dispatcher who is considered one of the best in her big city operations room. Of course, even the best make mistakes and Jordan's is deemed a doozie that ends up costing a young woman her life when she automatically calls back a disconnected call and inadvertently reveals her hidden location to her soon to be killer. 

That's a big ole' "Oops!" 

Jordan is so traumatized by this tragedy that she removes herself from the floor and becomes a 911 instructor, though I'm not quite sure why someone who'd just made a fairly basic yet huge error would qualify for a seemingly loftier position as an instructor. 

But, I digress.

It's no secret that The Call is a WWE production, so nobody should be entering this film expecting rocket science. While director Brad Anderson previously gave us the fine indie project The Machinist, he's long since seemed to sell out in favor of Hollywood pseudo-success and a few extra bucks. As one should expect, Jordan will be called back into duty when another teen (Abigail Breslin) finds herself in the clutches of this maniacal killer (Michael Eklund), and Jordan becomes determined to do what the police seemingly cannot - find the girl and rescue her. 

Did you just vomit in your mouth a little bit?

Yeah, me too.

There's a ridiculous absurdity to all of this, though those who prefer their nubile teens somewhat scantily clad will appreciate how much of the time our young and sweet and now graciously endowed Abigail Breslin spends in her bra. The film actually attempts to justify this fact, though how it does so is about as laughably absurd as a good portion of the latter half of the film. 

It seems like Anderson is trying to craft a psychologically involving thriller. 

He fails. 

Not even a bra-clad Abigail Breslin can ultimately hold our attention when both her character and that of Jordan are so woefully developed and jarringly uninteresting. I swear. It's not even the godawful hairstyle selected for Jordan, which somewhat resembles a white man's interpretation of what the 70's afro looked like. The hair is so bad that the longer the film went on and the dumber it got, the more I found myself fascinated by the hair and watching it move.

Seriously. I was more interested in Halle Berry's hair than a bra-clad Abigail Breslin. 

Oh, wait. They said something?

The film's final 30 minutes are ridiculous, with Berry's Jordan breaking every rule that we've already heard her preach and likely taking actions that would have either gotten her killed or fired or killed and fired or fired and killed. The film's conclusion is so ridiculously disjointed and illogical that you'll likely find yourself shaking your head at its implausibility. 

Even production values on The Call are shoddy, with careless mistakes left to provide post-release fodder for discussion by every indie filmmaker who has ever wondered why they can't get a Hollywood-sized budget. There are moments, especially early on in the film, when it seems like The Call could actually be a decent thriller and that actually explain why Berry agreed to what ultimately becomes her latest disappointing cinematic endeavor. While it's doubtful that Berry ever saw Oscar in her eyes when signing on to this project, she did likely see the film's potential to be an intriguing and thought-provoking psychological thriller. 

Oh, and remember the days when Abigail Breslin could act?

Yeah, I remember those too. 

© Written by Richard Propes 
The Independent Critic 



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