iconimg Saturday, September 05, 2015

Rashid Irani
April 07, 2013
The Call
Direction:  Brad Anderson
Actors: Halle Berry, Abigail Breslin
Rating: ***
The nightmare of a kidnapping and surviving in a confined space has been turned into a generic race-against-time thriller. Relying too heavily on contrivances and hoary plot twists, The Call is certainly not meant for claustrophobes or the faint-hearted.

A teenager (Breslin, the breakout child star from Little Miss Sunshine) is abducted and locked up in the trunk of a moving car. Her tormentor is a sadistic serial killer (Michael Eklund) who takes his blonde victims to an underground hideout and scalps them alive.

The main protagonist of the film, however, is a 911 operator (Berry, sporting a snazzy Afro) at an emergency response centre in down-town Los Angeles. Traumatised after an inadvertent error leads to the death of a young caller the operator takes a break from her stressful job.

A chance at redemption crops up when the terrified teen rings up from her untraceable cell-phone to alert the responder about the kidnapping. It's now up to our plucky heroine to save the damsel-in-distress from her epic ordeal.

Director Anderson, whose resume includes the indie rom-com Next Stop, Wonderland as well as the formulaic horror flick Vanishing at 7th Street, keeps the pacing quick but stumbles during the last half hour which becomes more tedious than suspenseful.

From the time the desk bound operator steps out into the mean streets to track down the psychotic perpetrator on her own, the proceedings get pretty messy. The protracted climax stretches credulity to its limit.

Those with a taste for anything-goes phonetasy will likely connect with this snatch-and-rescue thriller. Others might prefer to keep The Call pending.