(US - 2013)
Directed by Brad Anderson. Written by Richard D'Ovidio. Cast: Halle Berry, Abigail Breslin, Morris Chestnut, Michael Imperioli, Michael Eklund, David Otunga, Roma Maffia, Justina Machado, Denise Dowse, Jose Zuniga. (R, 94 mins)
It's always frustrating to watch a film that's solidly, briskly, and efficiently doing its job only to have one illogical decision snowball into a calamitous chain reaction that causes the entire thing to crash and burn. That's exactly what happens with THE CALL, a high-concept suspense outing from director Brad Anderson, a long-ago indie darling (1998's NEXT STOP, WONDERLAND, 2000's HAPPY ACCIDENTS) whose 2001 cult classic SESSION 9 led to him finding his niche with thrillers like 2004's THE MACHINIST and 2008's TRANSSIBERIAN. Anderson mostly does hired-gun TV work these days (FRINGE, TREME, BOARDWALK EMPIRE, THE KILLING), and his last film, 2011's VANISHING ON 7TH STREET, was easily his worst, but for about 2/3 of its running time, THE CALL finds Anderson in fine form and reinforces the idea that genre films of this sort are indeed his true calling. But around 65 minutes in, THE CALL makes a fatal mistake from which it never recovers.
LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE is growing up and now has ample cleavage. The jarring shift in tone is a tacky metamorphosis that ruins an otherwise exemplary nailbiter and would reek of studio exec interference and reshoots were it not for the film's last shot of Berry's Jordan pulling a Roy Scheider and using Eklund's catchphrase ("It's already done") against him. The last third of the film is a train wreck (I haven't even mentioned Casey's eye injury being badly CGI'd; really, everything has to be CGI'd now? We can't even apply practical makeup and a small prosthetic to simulate a swollen eye anymore? I'm just glad ROCKY and RAGING BULL were made when they were), but the final five minutes in particular, are so utterly, stupidly senseless and at odds with everything we've seen and learned about these characters that when the closing credits roll, you just sit there slack-jawed at the implosion of what was a pretty good movie. At one point during their phone conversation, Jordan promises Casey that she'll get her through this and that they'll go see a movie together that weekend. What a nice, believable, well-rounded ending that would've been. Instead, apropos of nothing and against all established logic, it culminates in vigilante vengeance, a cheap laugh, and red meat tossed out to the audience.