The new movie thriller, “The Call,” proves that efficiency isn’t a strength in itself.
Apparently made on a budget, the film is directed by one of the Andersons, Brad in this case, the one who made the Christian Bale picture “The Machinist” a decade ago. “The Call” stars Halle Berry, last seen on a twelveplex screen in the disastrous “Cloud Atlas,” and Abigail Breslin, an admirable child actor now moving into teen parts. And then, unfortunately, the new film seems to have been written in a hurry by Richard D’Ovidio, who wrote the re-make of “Thirteen Ghosts,” about a decade ago.
The net effect of all these worthies’ exertions is a movie better than what’s made for TV but not as good as it could have been.
Berry plays a Los Angeles 911 operator named Jordon. She is gliding along responding on the phone to drunks and the agitated, flirting with a policeman who visits her in her glorified bullpen office, and watching out for the supervisor. We don’t ever learn why she does this last. If D’Ovidio had been given a little more time, one suspects he would have provided us with an explanation.
Then Jordon takes a call from a young woman who tells her a prowler is breaking into her house. The operator directs the cops to the scene and tries to keep the girl on the line. Jordon gets the girl to open a window in her bedroom, to toss out a couple of shoes, and then to hide under the bed. The ruse works and the prowler begins to leave.
But the girl has shut off her phone, and Jordon calls her back. That would be o.k., but the girl answers the phone. Hearing the ringing cease, the home invader figures the girl has answered and is still in the house. He grabs her and breathes into the open line. Jordon warns him not to hurt the girl. “Its already done,” he says, and hangs up.
The line, which is the big one in the show, needed revision. What is “it”? Viewers will wonder about this slipshod language again when the line recurs.
The girl is found dead and Jordon freaks. One might think she’d be used to tragic ends to calls. If some additional time had been spent on the screenplay, it probably would have provided some explanation for why the operator plunges into depression. But the time wasn’t spent on the screenplay. Next thing we know, six months have passed and Jordon has been kicked upstairs and is now teaching student operators.
One of her former pupils takes the call from Casey (Breslin), a girl who awakens after having been grabbed in a shopping mall’s parking garage and chloroformed. Calling from the trunk, she is nearly hysterical. So old hand Jordon takes over talking to her and instructs her to kick a taillight out of the car, in part so she can see out and identify her location.
Police techs are having a tough time beaming in on the burner phone Casey is using. So she has to do more to help them. She pours paint out the opening where the tail light was. This attracts Michael Imperioli in a black Lincoln. He follows the stolen Toyota under a bridge and is killed by the abductor.
So now a nut case has Casey and the dead Michael Imperioli in the trunk of a Lincoln and the battery is running down on the Trackfone. The battery is running down on the invention of the filmmakers, too, as the movie starts to go all “Psycho” on us.
Perhaps luckily, “The Call” is over fairly quickly. I was glad, but not because the movie was poorly made or dull. No. The problem with “The Call” is that it could have been a first-rate feature. But somebody didn’t want to spend the money to improve the product.