Starring Halle Berry, Abigail Breslin, and Michael Eklund. Rated 14A. Now playing.
After seeing Halle Berry's ridiculous performance in 2003's godawful Gothika I didn't have high hopes for her latest Hollywood thriller. But boy, what a pleasant--as in terrifying--surprise. The Call deserves all the gushy hyperbole ("electrifying", "white-knuckle", "pulse-pounding") a critic can muster.
The movie opens with Berry, as 911 operator Jordan Turner, fielding calls in "The Hive", L.A.'s emergency response centre. After a few routine calls one comes in about a prowler, and skilled director Brad Anderson (Session 9, The Machinist) gets to work, deftly preying on people's innate fear of home invasion.
What do you do if that happens in the middle of the night, besides grab the baseball bat you keep by the bed?
And what do you do if you're a terrified teenage girl at home alone?
After an on-the-job misstep yields tragic consequences, Turner steps away from dispatching to train new operators, but gets pulled back into action (redemption time!) when another teenager (Abigail Breslin) frantically calls from the trunk of the car she's just been abducted in by a loony serial-killer (Michael Eklund). That's when the race-against-time tension goes into overdrive and stays that way much longer than you'd expect.
Breslin deserves a ton of credit for effectively portraying, in just a couple of scenes, Casey's inherent goodness and vulnerability. You really want the poor kid to survive the harrowing ordeal. And you really, really want the creep who snatched her to go down. Hard.
In a brilliant casting twist, Michael Imperioli of The Sopranos fame plays a good-samaritan limo driver who happens upon the villain's car on the freeway and becomes suspicious of what's up with the trunk. "Come on, Christopher!," you're hoping, "fuck that sick prick up!"
The Call does falter near the end when some scary-movie cliches sneak in, but things are just so damn enthralling up until then that its winning sheen remains mostly untarnished.
I never saw Berry's Catwoman, but if I had, it would be officially forgiven. I think.