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By Rick Kisonak | March 20, 2013

Here’s a fun party game I made up: It’s called “How Would This Movie Had Ended If Cell Phones Had Existed?” You can play it with nearly every film ever made because the proliferation of mobile devices is such a relatively recent phenomenon.

Take Jaws. Quint smashes the Orca‘s radio so Brody can’t call for a bigger boat, potentially dooming everybody on board; if cell phones had existed, though, Hooper could’ve slipped into the can to text the Coast Guard and the good folks of Amity, flush with tourist dollars, might’ve made him their next mayor.

Or The Godfather. Remember the scene when Sonny’s about to drive into that tollbooth ambush and his troops hit the road in a high speed attempt to stop him? They never would’ve massacred Vito’s boy if the Corleones had signed up for Verizon’s Friends & Family Plan.

When Grace Kelly sneaks into Raymond Burr’s apartment while James Stewart watches from across the courtyard in Rear Window, a cell would’ve come in handy to warn her the creep had returned and was about to walk in on her. Imagine how much grief Richard Dreyfuss’ Close Encounters character might have been spared if he’d been able to do a search on that funny looking mountain instead of making mash potato models until he came across it on TV. Dustin Hoffman could’ve just called Katharine Ross at the end of The Graduate instead of racing from one end of Los Angeles to the other. And, more recently, all that stood between those walking wolf burgers and a Disney ending in The Grey was a smartphone.

I could play all day but should probably address Halle Berry’s latest professional faux pas. A former beauty contestant and model, Berry parlayed her cheekbones into an acting career but over the years has displayed spectacularly crappy instincts when it’s come to choosing parts. It’s possible she’s made more duds than any Oscar winner in history.

For example, she turned down the starring role in Speed but signed on the dotted line for The Flintstones, Strictly Business, B*A*P*S, Swordfish, Gothika and Catwoman which, with a Rotten Tomatoes score of 9%, isn’t even the lowest rated in her oeuvre. New Year’s Eve earned a 7%, Movie 43 a 4% and Father Hood and Dark Tide a combined 0%! My guess is her participation in Monster’s Ball was the result of a paperwork mixup.

The Call is about par for the course for Berry. As directed by Brad Anderson (The Machinist) from a script by Richard D’Ovidio, it takes us into the high stakes world of an LA 911 operator whose resourcefulness is tested when a terrified young woman (Abigail Breslin) phones from the trunk of the car of a serial killer who’s just kidnapped her.

The good news? The first half is edge-of-your-seat. D’Ovidio was onto something. The emergency call center milieu hasn’t been explored on film a whole lot and proves instantly immersive. Someone could craft a classic crime thriller from the elements of this movie. Someone other than Anderson or D’Ovidio.

The bad news: The second half squanders everything fresh and intriguing about the first. Imagine the most meatheaded series of developments a Hollywood hack could wreak from the set up, dumb it down by a factor of ten and you’re still giving this picture more credit than it deserves.

Movie critic law prohibits my getting into specifics but let’s just say screen psychos have seldom been dashed off as lazily as this film’s. Berry’s dispatcher doesn’t make out much better. Breslin makes the leap from little miss goofball to scream teen seamlessly but there isn’t much else in the once promising director’s cell-out to make taking this call worth your time.

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