Cast: Halle Berry, Abigail Breslin, Michael Eklund, Morris Chestnut, Michael Imperioli
Runtime: 95 minutes
The lowdown: It’s high concept hell for Halle Berry and Abigail Breslin who deserve better than this formulaic 90’s throwback that should be cut off long before its demented denouement.
The Verdict: The Call begins with 911 operator Jordan (Berry) leaving her job after a fatal lapse in judgement. Six months on, still traumatised, she’s training new recruits on how to handle the pressures of work. When an inexperienced operator receives a call from Casey (Breslin), an abducted teenage girl imprisoned in the trunk of a car, Jordan reluctantly takes over and has a chance to save Casey and redeem herself.
Originally created as a television pilot, screenwriter Richard D’Ovidio’s aim was to highlight the tough, stress-filled conditions under which the predominantly female call centre staff work. This original premise is quickly abandoned in favour of clichéd heroics and cringe worthy coincidences.
Early scenes between Jordan and Casey are claustrophobically effective and it’s a shame this level of tension could not be maintained throughout.
Berry does damaged but determined with the wide-eyed look of a woman hunting her first hit in years and Breslin is maturing into a versatile actress who can elicit sympathy while screaming into the most robust disposable mobile ever made. Morris Chestnut and an almost unrecognisable Michael Imperioli add class but are woefully underused; this is all about female empowerment, no boys allowed.
During an hour of generic but watchable fluff, characters compete to see who can make the most ridiculous u-turn, the overall winner being Eklund’s sleepy-eyed, slack-jawed psycho. He does everything sub-humanly possible to signpost his nefarious plans while listening to creepy Irving Berlin covers and chattering his teeth like a World War Z extra.
The third act descends into familiar ‘gutsy gals in peril’ territory and manages to be both bland and offensive. Every page of the I Spy Book of Serial Killers is checked off before the eye-rolling end is in sight. Rumour has it there’s a sequel planned; Halle don’t take that call.