The Call (2013)

(On Cable TV, December 2013) I wasn’t expecting much from this low-budget serial-killer thriller, and while The Call doesn’t quite escape the confines of its chosen genre, it does have one or two high-concept moments that make its first hour worthwhile.  The chosen focus on 911 responders is novel, and the way the script uses the limits of the caller/responder link to set up a lengthy car chase sequence is the kind of stuff fit to rejoice even the most jaded thriller fan.  Halle Berry and Abigail Breslin are both initially sympathetic as (respectively) the responder and kidnapped caller, while director Brad Anderson seems to be able to wring the most out of his low production budget.  The highlight of The Call has to be the titular call, a lengthy sequence in the middle of the film where the kidnapped victim, stuck in the trunk of a car, dials 911 and tries to piece together clues as to where she is, where she is headed and who her kidnapper may be.  It’s a sequence with twists and turns and clever little moment and sadly it ends well before the film does.  Inevitably (for so are Hollywood thriller written), the character played by the lead actress has to inject herself in the action, go investigate on the ground, find clues that trained investigators have missed, go into a lair without calling for backup, and execute vigilante justice with a heavy side-order of sadism.  The Call would be a far better film without its trite and unpleasant last act –too bad that the screenwriter couldn’t recognize that the script’s best assets would be undermined by a conventional end sequence.  But so it goes with the Hollywood theory of converging premises: No matter how original the set-up, it usually ends up with a female hero facing down a serial killer in a basement. 

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