Powell's Blog: Dot Net Masterpiece Theater - WWE Studios release "The Call" review
By Jason Powell
Thanks to a Starz free preview weekend on DirecTV, I finally got around to watching WWE Studios' The Call starring Halle Berry and featuring a small role for WWE performer David Otunga. I had no desire to see this movie in the theater, nor was I even willing to dish out a whopping $1.61 (after tax) to watch it once it was released to Redbox (and I could write it off).
I heard decent things about the movie compared to the usual WWE Studios standards. Once I hit play on the ol' DVR, I immediately had second thoughts about my viewing choice. This was due completely to the WWE Studios logo appearing on my screen.
There was a time when WWE billed its old WWF logo as "The Recognized Symbol Of Excellence In Sports Entertainment." These days, the WWE Studios logo is viewed by my brain as "The Recognized Symbol Of Shitty Movies Made By A Pro Wrestling Company."
WWE officials have to know that if their logo appearing at the beginning of a movie triggers this impulsive reaction from someone who loves the pro wrestling/sports entertainment industry, then it has to be much worse when a non-WWE fan movie viewer sees it.
I strongly recommend that the company come up with a new name for their film division. Sure, some WWE fans would figure out that the new name is simply a replacement for the WWE Studios name, but at least the non WWE fans would take their films a little more seriously.
Now that I have that off my chest, let's get on with the movie. I'm going to spoil damn near everything about this film. So if you have a burning desire to see it at some point, now would be a good time to stop reading and come back to this once you've watched it.
Movie Spoilers Below
David Otunga pops up early in the film as the partner of Morris Chestnut's character, who is the boyfriend of Berry's lead character. Otunga was clean shaven for the role and looked just different enough that I didn't immediately think of his pro wrestling persona or wonder why he wasn't holding a cup of coffee. His role felt unnecessary and inconsequential, and I'm not sure what the point was of casting him in this flick since it's not like WWE fans would flock their local theaters to see Otunga on the big screen.
Berry's lead character is a 911 operator. She's smooth and confident, and they show off her nice side by having her act amused by a regular and harmless goofball caller. Sure, the goofball would get in big trouble for repeated non-emergency calls in the real world, but whatever.
Berry's character loses her mojo when she gets a call from a young blonde woman who is terrified because a man is breaking into her home. Berry gives the girl good advice and nearly convinces the movie's killer that she escaped through a window, but the caller gets disconnected.
In what seemed like the dumbest move ever, Berry calls back. However, that moment of stupidity is topped when the blonde girl actually picks up the phone, letting the killer know that she is still in the house. The scene drags on forever, to the point that the viewer is left feeling it's unrealistic or with zero confidence in the police emergency response system. The killer finds the blonde and inexplicably gets on the phone long enough to listen to Berry plead with him not to kill her. "It's already done," the killer responds before actually killing the girl.
Once Dumb Blonde Girl is killed, they flash forward six months. Berry is a mess, as shown by her awful hairstyle. She's now a trainer for 911 operators because she's too shaken up to take calls. While she's showing the rookies the ropes, an operator she trained six months earlier takes a call from a new blonde girl who has been kidnapped and is calling from the trunk of a car.
PSA for aspiring serial killers: Once you attack a victim and stash your future lampshade in your trunk, take a few extra few seconds to locate and destroy his/her cellphone. I mean, really, this is first day material in Serial Killing 101.
The rookie operator panics, seemingly showing that Berry was a terrible trainer and causing Halle to get back in the game. Just turn off your brain for a moment when it comes to the perfect timing of this sequence. Aside from a few moments like these that put your ability to suspend your disbelief to the test, things move along nicely for the first hour or so with some good suspenseful moments.
Chris from "The Sopranos" (a/k/a Michael Imperioli) shows up and has a chance to save the day, but he gets knocked out and winds up in the back of Stupid Serial Killer's trunk too. In fact, it's actually Chris's car, which apparently has more trunk space than Stupid Serial Killer's car. Chris dies when he wakes up and won't stop screaming despite the pleas of Cell Phone Girl. He deserved to die for being so stupid. I openly cheered when Stupid Serial Killer put him down.
The movie takes a total turn for the worse when Berry's boss tells her to go home after the girl in the back of the car gets disconnected. The boss even told her it was an order, yet we inexplicably see Berry hanging around "The Hive" call center several hours later. Oh, and at some point, Berry talks to the killer, who tells her, "It's already done." She connects the dots and realize it's the same killer she dealt with six months earlier. What are the odds?!?
Eventually, the police figure out the identity of Stupid Serial Killer because he left a fingerprint on the Memphis wrestling style smashed bottle of ether (or something) that he uses to put his victims to sleep. This leads to the awful scene of Otunga visiting the killer's house and meeting his wife and children. The wife wants to know what's going on, and Otunga is shown looking at the children awkwardly and then telling the wife that they should speak privately. The scene was campy as hell and I'm not even doing it justice here, but it was more the fault of the director than Otunga.
Things spiral horribly out of control when Berry decides to visit one of the properties owned by the serial killer. She goes by herself and somehow drops her cellphone into the underground lair where the killer has Cell Phone Girl. Rather than simply leave and go get help, Berry decides to venture down the ladder to retrieve her phone. She deserves to die even more than Chris did.
Shockingly, Berry manages to get the phone without incident, but she can't get a signal while underground. A normal person would simply climb the ladder and call for help, but Berry hears Cell Phone Girl screaming and decides to investigate. She really, really deserves to die.
For the record, If you are ever kidnapped by a serial killer and I happen to find you, you can scream as loudly as you want and even tell me that you only have ten seconds to live if I don't intervene, but I will leave you. Look, I'm a decent human being and all, so I will call the cops, but I will always put my safety ahead of yours. Quite frankly, my life is more important than yours. I have two dogs who depend on me and you are not the only reader of this website. It's not my fault that you have been strapped to a gurney and are about to have your scalp removed because the killer thinks your hair is similar that of to his dead sister/lover. None of this would have happened if you shaved your head like I do.
Anyway, that part about the scalp and sister/lover really was actually what fueled Stupid Serial Killer. In fairness to Stupid Serial Killer's dead sister/lover, she may have been dead when he decided to photograph himself kissing her on the lips. And in fairness to Stupid Serial Killer, his sister was pretty hot in a pre-drugged out Laurie Forman on "That '70s Show" kind of way (RIP Lisa Robin Kelly).
Don't get me wrong, I am not condoning the whole hooking up with your sister thing. Nothing good can come of it. Let's say you beat the odds and don't end up with a three-headed monster, you still need to look at what an asshole Joffrey turned out to be. Still, Stupid Serial Killer did marry down from his sister/lover. In fact, I can't help but feel that the real villain in all of this is actually Stupid Serial Killer's brunette wife. This whole situation probably could have been avoided had she gone to the salon and asked for the Rosa Mendes special.
So after the usual back and forth battle drama, babyface Berry saves Cell Phone Girl. At the nudging of Cell Phone Girl, Berry scalped him, let him suffer for a bit, and then filled him with more holes than a WWE storyline. Give yourself ten points if you think that ending seemed far too logical to be the actual finish.
Rather, the screenwriters put their hopes for a sequel ahead of writing a strong ending. Berry and Cell Phone Girl strapped Stupid Serial Killer to the scalping chair and then left him for dead in the underground lair... or for an unforeseen psycho scalp loving accomplice (maybe the wife?) to find him and release him, setting up The Call 2: Electric Scalpaloo.
In conclusion, I have seen worse WWE Studios releases. The movie was suspenseful until the third act silliness started. The cast had several known actors who I just assume spent most of their down time on the set weeping in their trailers while asking themselves how their careers nosedived to this sad low. Grading on a scale of five possible Jacob Goodnight three-foot penises, The Call gets 1.75 (you have no idea how badly I wish I had Jacob Goodnight penis icons to work with here).
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