The WWE logo is a strange thing to see before any movie, but especially one that stars a former Oscar winner like Halle Berry. Originally conceived as a vehicle for featuring its stable of wrestling stars on the big screen, WWE Studios quickly became known for producing cheap, direct-to-video action films. But with the release of “The Call” (and “Dead Man Down” the week before), it appears that the studio is starting to aim a little higher with their cinematic aspirations. Unfortunately, while the pedigree of talent is better than usual, “The Call” can’t shake the stink of mediocrity that’s present in all of WWE’s films, no matter how hard it tries.
Berry stars as Jordan Turner, a 911 dispatcher who receives a distress call from a teenage girl during a home invasion. After Jordan seemingly saves her from capture by devising a clever plan, she gives her away by redialing the number after the call is disconnected. Feeling responsible for the girl’s kidnapping and subsequent death, Jordan takes a leave of absence and returns six months later as a training supervisor, unable to resume her previous duties. While taking the newest recruits through a tour of LAPD’s base of operations, a fellow operator receives a call from a teenager named Casey Welson (Abigail Breslin) who finds herself trapped in the trunk of a car after being drugged and abducted from a mall parking lot. The only problem is that her cell phone was destroyed in the process, and the TracFone she happened to have in her back pocket is untraceable. When the rookie operator proves unhelpful, Jordan jumps back into the hot seat, only to discover that Casey’s captor (Michael Eklund) is the same man from before.
“The Call” starts out pretty brightly, with an interesting look behind the scenes at what it’s like to be a 911 dispatcher that frankly doesn’t make the job seem very appealing. The early stages of Casey’s kidnapping also provide some nice moments of suspense, but the movie is unable to maintain that high energy for very long, and by the time Michael Imperioli has made his silly cameo, it all starts to go tragically downhill. That’s not much of a surprise considering the script was written by the same guy behind such cinematic turds as “Thir13en Ghosts” and “Exit Wounds,” but no one could have guessed that the villain would be such a ridiculously over-the-top Norman Bates clone whose most developed character trait is his love of early ’80s pop music. The whole thing is played very seriously, but it’s hard not to break out in laughter when he’s introduced to Taco’s synth-pop cover of “Puttin’ on the Ritz.”
It’s sad to see Brad Anderson’s once-promising career relegated to low-rent fodder like this, because while the director and his two stars do everything they can to elevate Richard D’Ovidio’s mediocre script, their effort only goes so far before the film crumbles into a clichéd mess. Though Halle Berry is certainly no stranger to this brand of B-movie genre flick, the sight of Abigail Breslin (who barely gets the chance to do any real acting in the film) slumming it as the damsel in distress is disappointing to say the least. Her involvement is only a small part of the wasted potential on display, because just when it looks like “The Call” is going to deliver a fresh take on the typical kidnapping movie, it switches gears and becomes another rote, run-of-the-mill thriller better suited for VOD than the big screen.