Reviews for the Easily Distracted

Reviews for the Easily Distracted:
The Call

Title: The Call

Finally Ran Out of Police and Firefighter Ideas, Huh? While I would never minimize the difficult job 911 operators have, I was a bit disappointed the movie wasn't a feature-length re-enactment of the infamous "911 Western Cheeseburger call."

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant to the Film: Two mannequin heads out of five.

Brief Plot Synopsis: Emergency dispatcher tries to locate kidnapped girl before she can be killed by the man who murdered another caller six months earlier.

Tagline: "There are 188 million 911 calls a year. This one made it personal."

Better Tagline: "Don't leave me [strangled] on the telephone."

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Jordan Turner (Halle Berry) is the crème de la crème of Los Angeles 911 emergency dispatchers, handling each call -- serious or not -- with aplomb and professionalism. That is, until an error in judgment while on the line with a teenage girl calling to report a prowler results in her murder. Six months pass and a shaken Jordan is now on training detail, until a call that just happens to be from another soon-to-be victim of the same killer comes in while she just happens to be visiting the operator with a class. Realizing she alone has the skillz to handle the situation, Jordan straps on the headset one more time to assuage her conscience. Oh, and maybe save the caller.

"Critical" Analysis: Unless you're the Apostle Paul, you can't be all things to all people. One of the main problems with The Call, though by no means the only one, is that it makes at least one too many stylistic jumps in its relatively abbreviated 90-minute running time.

It works best, in the beginning, as a fairly straightforward cop thriller. Casey Welson (Abigail Breslin), the kidnapped girl, communicates with Jordan from the killer's trunk via a friend's overlooked TracFone. As a result, there's no way to run a GPS trace, so Jordan devises ways for Casey to make her presence known to bystanders and police search teams. Director Brad Anderson's experience on shows like The Wire and Transsiberian serves him well here, as these scenes are enjoyably tense.

Screenwriter Richard D'Ovidio seems to have run out of steam about halfway through. Shocking, I know, to think the writer of Thir13en Ghosts and the Steven Seagal "classic" Exit Wounds may not have been up to the task of crafting a fully realized narrative. Before long, we're poking around the killer's history and probable justifications for his evil deeds (I was probably too happy to note actor Michael Eklund resembles a slightly more deranged Ethan Hawke). What starts as a thriller reminiscent of other race-against-the-clock flicks like Speed swerves first into Criminal Minds territory before taking a sharp left into Silence of the Lambs-ville. All while Jordan decides upon a final course of action as boneheaded as it is predictable.

The Call is the latest film from WWE Studios. You might remember them from such film as The Marine and The Marine 2. At first I was going to comment positively on the lack of professional wrestlers, but then I rechecked the cast listing and found "Officer Jake Devans" -- partner to Jordan's boyfriend Paul (Morris Chestnut) -- was played by David Otunga of Nexus and WWE Tag-Team fame. This doesn't weigh too heavily against the film, since he's on screen for a total of about ten minutes; I just found it funny.

Less funny is the series of facile coincidences and facepalming moves made by every one of the main characters not played by Breslin (from child beauty pageant burlesque in Little Miss Sunshine to spending the final act of this bleeding in her bra, the kid's got guts). It's like the movie was made solely for showing to audiences prone to screaming helpful advice to the main characters. ("Go get your phone!" and "Don't go down there!" were two such helpful examples from the screening I attended). And it isn't like Berry is all that bad, necessarily (and she's *how* old? Daaaamn), but The Call's lack of focus and schizo script don't do her any favors.

The Call is in theaters today. I almost had to call 911 due to eye-rolling induced injury.

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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar