Saturday, March 23, 2013

Review: The Call (2013)

Sometimes when you watch a movie, you just know that creative threw a bunch of stuff against the wall and went with whatever muddle mix of ideas happened to stick.  The Call starring Halle Berry is precisely this type of movie.  Forget that it’s almost a direct rip of Cellular (Chris Evans), because that alone would not have warranted someone opening his/her checkbook in order for this movie to be made.  No, this movie is more like five parts Cellular, and one part Silence of the Lambs and Kiss the Girls, with a little of The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 sprinkled in.  The problem here is that none of these mismatched parts is done particularly well.

The plot of the movie focuses on Halle Berry’s Jordan Turner, a 9-1-1 operator who becomes embroiled in the machinations of a serial killer when she accepts a call from Casey Welson (Aibgail Breslin), a girl who is kidnapped from a mall parking lot.  The plot plays out like a game of cat and mouse as Berry and Breslin work together to try to stop the killer (Michael Eklund) before it is too late. 

Though this has been done before, the premise has a few things working for it – a clear objective, the feeling of time constraints, lots of enclosed spaces; all the tools one would need to build a taut suspenseful narrative.  And that’s what makes director Brad Anderson directing miscues all the more glaring.  To be fair, this movie is a low budget B-level film and thus should come with tempered expectations, but that doesn’t mean you can’t tell a compelling story.  Sadly, writer Richard D’Ovidio seems content to pick pocket elements from other films and does a shoddy job of sewing them into one meaningful plotline.  The story is so week that you could have watched the entire film with the mute button on and not have been any worse off.

Still, I am going to throw a ton of blame for this debacle at the cast.  When you are making a B-level movie, much of the onus to elevate the narrative falls to the acting talent.  Despite some of the acclaim that Halle Berry has received, I’ve never been high on her acting abilities.  Still, regardless of where you stand on this debate it is undeniable that her recent filmography leaves a lot to desire.  So to me, her work in The Call is the continuation of a steep decline.  I found her performance lazy and unconvincing and the delivery of some of her lines downright cringe inducing.

As for her co-star Abigail Breslin, her work was a pedestrian paint-by-numbers damsel in distress performance.  You could have gotten this (or more) from half the actresses at an open casting call, but my guess is that she was placed in this film for whatever bump at the box office her slight name recognition might contribute.  Still her performance probably could have graded better had Michael Eklund brought a bit of menace to the table.  It is not hyperbole when I tell you that he is probably one of the least intimidating villains I’ve ever seen in a film from the thriller genre.  His performance is total amateur hour.

So to recap, the plot is an amateurish amalgamation of a bunch of mismatched films; poorly written and directed; produced on the cheap; and features a cast that brings nothing to the table.  I don’t think this needs to be stated, but I am going to say it anyway.  Do not watch this movie.  Ever.  It is a supreme waste of time and/or money that can be spent on more interesting activities like mowing your lawn with nail clippers or…breathing.  In lieu of this, watch Cellular.  By no means is that a cinematic masterpiece, but Chris Evans and Kim Basinger are ten times better than the aforementioned cast of this film.  And as you move forward in your life, I highly recommend that you avoid all movies that feature Halle Berry as the lead.  Consider yourself warned.

Standout Performance: Morris Chestnut.  He wasn’t terrible.


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