Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Call [A Fat Jesus Movie Review]

This is definitely one of the first WWE Studios productions to ever really interest me in the slightest. Most WWE movies are just terrible straight to DVD releases with a superstar shoved down our throats. But things are a bit different with The Call and to a lesser extent, Dead Man Down. As far as theatrical releases go, it seems like WWE Studios may try to actually be a production company. The Call has a real story, with recognized actors in the lead role. Yes, David Otunga is in it, but this is the first time I've felt like a "WWE Movie" was actually a legitimate movie. Also it's not a terrible movie overall, so it seems as things may be trending upward a bit for WWE Studios.

The Call follows the story of Los Angeles Police Department 911 operator Jordan Turner (Halle Berry). She is one of the best operators, always professional and never panics, no matter the call. One night she receives a call from Leah Templeton (Evie Thompson), a teenage girl who fears her life as a man is breaking into her house. Jordan's instructions allow Leah to evade the intruder, but the call disconnects. Jordan calls the number back, allowing the intruder to hear the ring and get to Leah. The next day a Jordan comes in for work she finds out that Leah has been found dead. Jordan confides in her boyfriend, Officer Paul Phillips (Morris Chestnut) that what happened has shaken her a bit and she can't take calls anymore. Six months later Jordan now works as a trainer for 911 operators. One day the same man who kidnapped and killed Leah, has now kidnapped Casey Welson (Abigail Breslin). Casey is taken as she is heading to her car in a mall parking garage. A rookie operator gets the frantic call by Casey who is freaking out in this man's trunk. She cannot handle it so Jordan takes over for her for the first time in six months. Because Casey is using a prepaid phone, they can't get an exact lock-on her position. Jordan has to coach Casey through an improbable situation and have her leave enough of a trail so that she can be found. The LAPD, with the aid of Officer Phillips, his partner Jake Devans (David Otunga) and Jordan aim to rescue Casey as quickly as possible and get her home safe and sound.

This movie suffers from the dreaded sports saying that goes, "It was a tale of two halves". The story is pretty original, and it's a shame that it takes such a dive in about the last third of the movie. It keeps you engaged, builds the suspense and has more than enough action. But then the third act, if you will, starts and it turns into a watered down version of Taken almost. I liked the story, up until this point, and it really beings down my overall liking of a film that I was kinda looking forward to. Don't let this discredit the performances by Halle Berry or Abigail Breslin. These two are a feminist's dream team in this movie. I don't know if it was the writes goal to make this a female empowered movie, of sorts, but to me that's how it turned out. I haven't liked Halle Berry before 2012 and Cloud Atlas, since 2003s Gothika, but this was a really good performance that I got into. You could feel the emotion she put into the character and she really felt like she embodied Jordan. Props out to Abigail Breslin as well, since I haven't liked anything she's done aside from the masterpiece Little Miss Sunshine, as well as Zombieland. She played the role as, like Halle, if she were Casey. The emotion came through, to a lesser extent, but was good enough to have the two leads actually lead the film. The rest of the cast, aside from the kidnapper, played by Michael Eklund, was wholly bland and completely forgettable. Nothing bad per se, just nothing really standout.

Here's where I have problems with this movie. The story is fine, till the end. The acting by the leads, more than good enough for a movie like this. But it's pretty short, and things almost feel rushed. I mean sure, they may want the feel of the police scrambling to get to the girl, but that doesn't mean you have to skimp on character development or rush a scene. Take 10 more minutes to show Jordan and Paul at home or on a date. Maybe something like Jake and Paul meeting for the first time too. Just something to get me into another character besides the main to. Plus it adds some back-story and a little bit extra time to a decent attempt at a thriller. The other big problem I have is the shift at the end of the movie. This may be a bit spoiler-ish, so be forewarned. It goes from "Get the girl home safe" to "I'm going to take the law into my own hands". The whole movie you have Jordan built up as the woman who follows the rules and gets stuff done. Then all of the sudden she's Liam Neeson trying to get his wife and daughter back. While I would understand if she was made as someone to break the rules, the sudden shift was so out of character it left me wondering why it was written the way it was. Out of place violence caught me off guard, and while it doesn't bother me, I was not expecting it going in to this. Quick and unnecessary camera cuts and even the lacking of good action in the action scenes all add up to more things wrong than right with this movie.

Even after all the harshness in the paragraph before The Call was still a very decent movie. The story is one, that while lacking, is original enough to keep you into it. With the performances of Halle Berry and Abigail Breslin being good enough to fill in for the so-so story line. There is problems with this, as you've read. The lack of character development and the downfall of the last part of the movie leaves a lot to be desired. But in the end, despite overall critical reception, that this is a decent movie and will do wonders in the progress of WWE Studios going forward. Just don't give me something like The Marine 16 or Knucklehead 4, please.

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