Saturday, February 4, 2017

Movie Reviews: The Calling

The Calling
directed by Jason Stone
This movie had a pretty good cast but wasted them in a story that is by turns stolid and confusing. It has greater than normal amounts of exposition. But those explanatory scenes probably won't make the viewer more interested in the story. This film works the same side of the street as Solace and as Seven. But it's not as good as those films. The film is set in Canada but that's not really all that important to the story. Police Superintendent/Chief Hazel Micallef (Susan Sarandon) is the top law enforcement officer in the Canadian town of Fort Dundas. Fort Dundas is a small sleepy place where everyone knows everyone else. About the worst crime Hazel has to deal with is drivers taking shortcuts over someone else's property. It's just as well because Hazel is definitely in the downshifting area of her life. She's old, embittered due to career and romantic setbacks, burned out and for reasons which are wisely not completely explained suffers from serious back pain. As a result of this pain and other emotional problems Hazel has become a high functioning alcoholic and a prescription pill addict. She's low energy. She just wants to arrive late to work, spend all day doing mostly nothing, and go home to have a drink. Hazel would rather not be bothered, thank you very much. Waiting to get home before having a drink is not a requirement as far as Hazel is concerned. These failings are generally but not always overlooked by Hazel's fussy live-in mother (Ellen Burstyn) and her perceptive and empathetic if occasionally impatient second-in command (Gil Bellows). We may not all have had run-ins with addicts but many of us have dealt with people who show self-destructive behavior or just do things which work our last nerve. When the object of your irritation is someone you love, finding a way to tell them about themselves, let alone getting them to stop the bad behavior can be tricky.

Well it wouldn't be a movie if something didn't happen to change the status quo in the sleepy little town. And this something is a murder. A church friend of Hazel and her mother is found dead in her home; her throat has been severed. Things like this don't happen in Fort Dundas. Hazel would like to get some new detectives in to help her solve this murder. But her regional boss doesn't like Hazel. He doesn't think Hazel needs many additional resources. He's only willing to allow an inexperienced young officer (Topher Grace) to join Hazel's team. The new guy has his own quirks and challenges. When Hazel discovers that there were other unsolved similar murders that occurred in different jurisdictions she realizes that she may have a serial killer on her hands. Surprising everyone, Hazel decides that the time has come for her to be natural police and track down this killer. The film tells us who the killer is far too early. It also has Donald Sutherland in the stereotypical role of a Catholic Priest with The Secret That Must Not Be Spoken. The mysterious Simon (Christopher Heyerdahl) does yeoman work as the tall strange fellow with a creepy smile and long black coat.  This movie has something to say both about belief in the next life and belief in alternative medicines. But ultimately even a talented actress of Sarandon's caliber can't really save this movie from lifeless writing and indifferent setup. And why bother to have an actress like Ellen Burstyn involved in your project if you give her nothing much to do? Anyway the ending was both predictable and different. I liked that the movie was slower paced. I was happy that it did not rely on the same old jump cuts and misdirections that have come to define many thriller films. I liked that the film made an investigation of how loneliness impacts older people and how churches are just as often places of social gathering as worship. But the story line was to my mind increasingly illogical. Sarandon truly inhabited her character. There aren't a lot of thrillers centered around an older woman and her physical/emotional issues. But all in all to my mind this was a film that was mediocre. As always YMMV.
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