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Originally published March 14, 2013 at 1:39 PM | Page modified March 14, 2013 at 1:39 PM

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‘The Call’: After a riveting hour, hang up

A movie review of “The Call,” a serial-killer hunt set inside L.A.’s 911 Call Center that’s riveting — until the third act. Halle Berry and Abigail Breslin star.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Movie Review 2 stars

‘The Call,’ with Halle Berry, Abigail Breslin, Morris Chestnut, Evie Thompson. Directed by Brad Anderson, from a screenplay by Richard D’Ovidio. 90 minutes. Rated R for violence, disturbing content and some language. Several theaters.

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Rare is the thriller that goes as completely and utterly wrong as “The Call” does at almost precisely the one-hour mark. Which is a crying shame, because for an hour this is a riveting, by-the-book kidnapping.

Brad Anderson turns this novel procedural, a serial-killer hunt set inside L.A.’s 911 Call Center, into a real edge-of-your-seat thriller. Given Halle Berry, as a veteran 911 operator whose mistake months ago haunts her; Abigail Breslin, as a kidnapped teen on the cellphone from a darkened car trunk; and a half-decent tale of horror, guilt, problem-solving and redemption, Anderson couldn’t go far wrong.

Until he, and the movie, do.

Berry’s character, Jordan, has been struggling since her blunder led an intruder to a victim six months before. Now, on an afternoon when she’s walking recruits through training, explaining the technology to them (and to the audience), another girl is grabbed. This one has a phone and she’s calling from the trunk. Breslin (“Little Miss Sunshine”) makes us feel her terror, mainly in her voice.

Anderson teases out solutions and shows how the system can work in a case like this. It’s only when our Oscar-winning heroine puts down the phone and sets out to do some sleuthing of her own that “The Call” disconnects, turning into something far more generic and far less exciting.

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