January 19, 2018

Posted March 31, 2013 by D. K. Holm

Halle Berry seems to be suffering from what is properly known as the Best Actress Curse. This states that all the subsequent films by an actress who wins best or best supporting actress Oscars will be crap. This isn’t exclusively true, otherwise the likes of Meryl Streep would not be nominated 92 times. Hmmmm, well, now that I think about it …

Ms. Berry’s latest film, The Call, is a blend of Quincy and Silence of the Lambs. It’s a tale of redemption in which Berry plays a 911 operator who, through no fault of her own, causes the death of a caller.* Her fingers burned, and not really wanting to get back on the bike, to mix as many metaphors as the film does, she ends up monitoring another call several months later in which the same serial killer has kidnapped a new victim.

This is one of those “bubble” movies such as the recent Detour and previous entries such as Phone Booth, Cellular, Buried, and others. It tries to make something dramatic out of someone sitting behind a desk at a computer screen talking on the phone, a problem similar to the dreary remake of The Taking Of Pelham One Two Three. Like Quincy, Ms. Berry eventually leaves the safe confines of the call center and goes into the field to redeem herself by saving the life of the girl (played by Little Miss Sunshine‘s now grown up Abigail Breslin). Ms. Berry takes her unfortunate haircut and stomps off to confront the killer, who as usual has some bizarre basis for his crimes. The killer (Canada’s Michael Eklund) also provides a vicarious pleasure to the mixed motivations of the audience by dragging his victim to his lair and disrobing her. As in virtually every single crime show on TV, she attempts to escape, and gets away for five seconds before being recaptured. Unfortunately in a movie theater one cannot fast-forward through these time filling and time wasting excursions.

The director is Brad Anderson, who gained some credibility and notoriety thanks to his film The Machinist, though the real burden there was carried by Christian Bale, who modified his body for the part. Though horror fans follow his career, it has been uneven, and he seems to be much more at home in television, where he has done episodes of Fringe, The Wire, and Person of Interest. His best film arguably is an audit he called TransSiberian, in which Mr. Anderson pulls out the Hitchcockian stops with the unlikely Woody Harrelson and Emily Mortimer caught up in an international crime during a train ride. The Call, however, is as generic as its title, and is so by the numbers as to be easily forgotten while departing the theater, replaced by the hope that Ms. Berry receives better film choice advice. But then, someone was going to make this dreck, so it might as well as her her as anyone else.

* A similar prologue figures in the recent¬†Olympus Has Fallen, in which the central Secret Security agent “causes” the death of the First Lady.