If the celluloid service for "The Call" had run out after 60 minutes, the new film from director Brad Anderson would have been an edge-of-your seat thriller about a 911 operator's valiant efforts to save a kidnapped young girl.
Sadly, "The Call" continues, and the last third of the movie is where it turns into a complete wrong number.
It's as if script writers Richard D'Ovidio, Nicole D'Ovidio and Jon Bokenkamp became completely disconnected with reality as they tried to come up with an ending. Count yourself lucky that if this is the best they could do, you didn't see their other ideas.
"The Call" starts with Halle Berry playing a veteran 911 operator who has lost her confidence after a mistake she makes results in the death of a young girl.
Six months later, Berry's character is working as a 911 instructor but she gets put back on the phone for a familiar-sounding case.
Casey (Abigail Breslin) makes a frantic 911 call when she's kidnapped and locked in the trunk of a car. It's a pre-paid cell phone so the signal can't be tracked. (Clarification: The filmmakers took so liberties. All prepaid phones are E-911 compliant, says Will Harwood from The Hastings Group, which means which means they can be located by police).
Both Berry and Breslin make the first part of the movie a chilling thriller as they work together despite only being connected by a cellphone. Berry brings a nice sense of fear and determination to the performance that makes moviegoers believe that this is a woman haunted by her past but who is willing to face her demons to save a young life.
Breslin is equally believable, despite only have limited space to act because most of her time is spent inside a car trunk. Tension builds as the pair work together.
Then the film gets a call from 1 (800) FOOLISH. Berry is turned from a competent telephone operator into a super sleuth, while Breslin's character suddenly becomes the opening act for a WWE main event. And the killer switches from being terrifying because he's at least dancing along the edges of sanity into a distant cousin of Norman Bates.
From bad acting to an absurd ending, the last 10 minutes are so painful to watch that someone should call 911 during each showing and report a theater full of people who are being mugged.
Movie review"The Call," rated R for language, violence. Stars Halle Berry, Abigail Breslin, Morris Chestnut, Michael Eklund. Directed by Brad Anderson. Running time: 96 minutes. Grade: D Theaters and times for this movie | Other movie reviews
TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, firstname.lastname@example.org or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.