News Column

Halle Berry Gets 'The Call'

March 15, 2013

Gary Thompson

Halle Berry

Oscar season has just concluded, and with the hoopla comes the assumption that awards and nominations confer career privileges upon lucky recipients.

Which brings us to Halle Berry and Abigail Breslin, former winner and nominee, respectively, whose achievements qualify them to be waterboarded and tortured in "The Call."

(Next week, you can see Melissa Leo get dragged by her hair in "Olympus Has Fallen." Oscar gloria is especially sic transit for women.)

Breslin was nominated for "Little Miss Sunshine," a road movie that had her traveling to a beauty pageant in a microbus.

"The Call" is a road movie of a different sort. Here, Breslin's a kidnap victim who's hauled around in the trunk of a maniac's car, talking desperately to a 9-1-1 operator (Berry), who advises the abductee on how to attract the attention of police.

This sounds gruesome, and at times it is, but "The Call" is also highly competent, the work of director Brad Anderson, who's a talent.

It's just that his talent is for thrillers as brutal as they are taut and involving -- "Transsiberian," "The Machinist," "Session 9."

Mood, pacing, nicely drawn characters -- Anderson has chops. "The Call" is typically slick and efficient. We're introcuded to Berry as the quick-thinking, compassionate star of the L.A. County emergency call center, and we get a vivid sense of the job and its psychological pressures.

Berry's veteran carries the emotional scars of a few bloody outcomes, but she steps in to field the call of the terrified kidnap victim, helping the girl attract police or passersby without attracting the attention of the killer.

In these moments, "The Call" is that rare thriller that's actually thrilling -- a hair-raising series of near escapes -- and it remains so throughout its brisk 90-minute run time, even as it grows ludicrous.

Morris Chestnut stars as a helpful patrolman, apparently the only patrolman at work in Los Angeles County. Sequester cutbacks?

And "The Call" can't resist sending Berry out on her own to investigate, so that the movie's star may come face to face with the killer.

There are movies, though, that flaunt credulity in a way that turns into audience-rousing fun, and Anderson mostly stays on the right side of that line.

He can't resist taking a scalpel to the head of the 16-year-old character, though. I wish we could return to the days when a child had to be at least 18 to be carved up on screen, but I'm afraid that ship has sailed.

Source: (c)2013 the Philadelphia Daily News. Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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