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Halle Berry takes The Call and Abigail Breslin’s on the line

by Mark Burger

The Call is a gimmick movie that, to its credit, doesn’t overstay its welcome. It’s tight, trim and wastes very little time getting down to business. So much the better.

Halle Berry plays Jordan Turner, a 911 operator shaken by a previous tragedy in which her caller was murdered while on the line. Six months later, she sees (or hears) history repeating itself when young Casey Welson (Abigail Breslin) calls 911 after being abducted in a shopping-center parking garage. Casey’s in the trunk, Jordan’s on the phone, and — surprise, surprise — Casey’s kidnapper (Michael Eklund) is the very same fiend as last time.

Director Brad Anderson, who’s made a few nerve-jangling thrillers in his time (Session 9, The Machinist) incorporates a few stylish touches into the predictable proceedings. Speed is of the essence, however, and although the film isn’t particularly deep or provocative it is efficiently and competently rendered.

Breslin, enjoying (as it were) a more grown-up role as the endangered Casey, is pummeled and punched throughout yet exhibits a welcome, crowd-pleasing resilience. She’s the best thing about the movie. Eklund is effectively cold-blooded as the resident fiend, while Michael Imperioli, Morris Chestnut and Roma Maffia add heft to supporting (and mostly thankless) roles. As for Berry, she worries well. This is the sort of role she could have phoned in, and to an extent she does — literally.

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