Thursday, April 11, 2013

Two Reels Too Many

When a donkey flies, you really can't expect it to stay in the air long.  The same can be said for any movie with Halle Berry, one of the most overrated actresses working in Hollywood today.  Hey, you really shouldn't expect much from her on the screen.  She can't even drive around the block without hitting another car.

Here's one of my "cleaning lady" films.  What's that?  Well, when you work out of your home, there are those days when you need to vacate the premises so your housekeeper can do her thing without feeling like you are watching her every move with the Swifter.  And that's what brought me to go see "The Call."  The time it was showing and the hour that Maria was coming were simultaneous.

And, oddly enough, this was a game of cinematic roulette that I almost won.  Because the first hour of "The Call" is terrific.  It brings a moviegoer into a world that you seldom get to see.  The inner workings of a 911 call center.  You know you're going to get a lot of excitement because this one is situated in Los Angeles and you know how goofy that city can be.  You get to see how the phone responders are trained and how they are monitored.  The myriad of resources at their fingertips.  The psychological struggles of helping that strange voice calling for help and the agony at never hearing how the problem ultimately gets resolved.  

Indeed, this has the makings of a good documentary.  And started to be a damn entertaining dramatic movie.

Hit and Run Halle is our heroine.  Devoted to her call board and helping her fellow man.  She even dates a cop, so she never really does disconnect from those that serve the city of Los Angeles.  One day, she gets a distress call from a young teenage girl alone at home with an intruder in the house.  Hit and Run Halle makes a small but honest mistake which disconnects the call.  A week later, the girl's body is found in East Los Angeles, where most teenage girls are buried in this city.  This, of course, emotionally destroys our favorite 911 operator, who goes off the board for a while to teach other new people how not to make the same mistake she just did.

Naturally, fate brings Hit and Run Halle back to the call board where she winds up talking to another teenage girl who's been kidnapped and locked in the trunk of a red Toyota Corolla.  I don't think this is the type of product placement the Japanese car maker had in mind.  But, you learn how, if you happen to be locked in the trunk of a Toyota Corolla, to kick out the rear tail light.  See how educational "The Call" can be.  

Of course, this winds up as the type of Amber Alert that seems to occur once an hour in Los Angeles.  There is an unsettling confrontation between the abductor and chauffeur Michael Imperioli of "The Sopranos."   Imperioli doesn't get many lines but he's on screen a lot in a "Weekend At Bernie's" kind of way.  Catch my drift?

Meanwhile, you're captivated at how one of these Amber events unfolds.  And you learn how police, paramedics, the media, and John Q. Public can come together to help resolve these situations.  

So far, so good.

And then.......

The final two reels of "The Call" are shown.  

Here the movie comes off the track in ways unimaginable.  The screenwriter and director lose their way in the forest like Hansel and Gretel.  It's as defeating as if NASA, shooting for the surface of the moon, found out that their rocket landed in Casper, Wyoming.  "The Call" falls off the highest cliff ever.  The first complete suspension of logic is when you discover Hit and Run Halle is dealing with the very same guy that killed the first teenage girl.  Who didn't see that coming?  Stevie Wonder, put your hand down.  Even you knew it.

Meanwhile, what we end up with is your typical slasher horror film.  Once you meet the abductor, you're faced with the standard maniac who can't be killed regardless of how many times you stab him, whack him over the head with a chair, or throw face in his face.  Just know that he will get up the mat repeatedly.  That nasty sinus infection that just won't go away.

And, of course, the ridiculousness of it all is further compounded by the mind-numbingly stupid plot device that has Hit and Run Halle to leave her post on the 911 call board and go out....wait for it, all by an isolated field where she will seek out the abductor's hiding place.  There is one totally stupid plot point after another.  The only thing that would have saved the ending for me is if the director chose to have Hit and Run Halle get involved in a car chase.  Now that would have been something to see.

The ending of "The Call" is no different than any other horror movie you have seen in the last twenty years and there's not a single original moment in it.  All the more disappointing because you thoroughly enjoyed the first hour of the film.  

Next time my housekeeper is due to come over, I need to call 911 and ask them where a better movie is playing.

Dinner last night:  BBQ Tri-tip sandwich at Lucille's Smokehouse.

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