Apparently in a stiff competition with Cuba Gooding Jr. and Adrien Brody to see who can stretch the goodwill of an Oscar win the farthest without snapping it completely, Halle Berry knows no bounds. The Call
is beneath an actress of her caliber. It's pulpy, shticky, slimy, manipulative and bombastic. But here’s the problem: For a while, The Call
is a good film. There's a sense of real peril that jabs your heart and makes your teeth grind. Then, just as it brings all its nifty tricks and narrative sucker punches to a climax, it becomes the worst kind of terrible: the predictable, sleazy, torture-porn kind of horrible. Berry plays Jordan, a top-notch Los Angeles 911 operator jarred into a catatonic state of failure when she inadvertently helps a murderer capture and kill a young girl. But she springs back into action when she's forced to take a call from an abducted teenager (Little Miss Sunshine
's Abigail Breslin). At the film’s core is a compelling story of using minimal means to save a child. It's at once frustrating and breathless. Then logic itself totally leaves the equation, with the film spiraling into standard horror fare when Breslin and her kidnapper arrive at a creepy murder den. In the torture chamber, Brad Anderson's camera ogles a creepily sexualized Breslin. What's most frustrating is that Anderson has taken a great—if sloppily executed—potboiler of a premise and boiled it down to the basest, most contrived and idiotic revenge fantasy imaginable. Berry and Breslin, for some reason, give it their all, but it's almost sad to see such fine performances undercut by a narrative that feels the need to pander to moronic urges. The film's slickness elevates it above standard exploitation fare, but then it falls victim to the very traps it seems initially to tower above.