The Calling - Cinema Review

'Constantly allowed to wear her sunglasses indoors, Sarandon manages to portray alcoholic police chief Micallef as less troubled, more diva.'

The Calling was highlighted on this very site a few weeks ago, with a marginally tongue-in-cheek listing of the trailer's many, many Cop Thriller clich├ęs. This genre though is a comforting blanket to me, a familiar set of tropes that typically resolves in a definitive and satisfying arc, the goodies beating the baddies.

The Calling has the tropes but very few of the things that make them work in harmony. If this is a comfort blanket then it's a faulty electrical one, sparking all over the place in a mildly threatening way that wouldn't pass your average health and safety test. If it was a major enough film for Saturday Night Live to parody (it isn't) the script would write itself.

At the centre of the numerous problems is Susan Sarandon's beleaguered, alcoholic police chief Hazel Micallef, recovering from a recent injury by taking a mixture of pills and Jim Beam. Constantly allowed to wear her sunglasses indoors, Sarandon manages to portray Micallef as less troubled, more diva. It's one thing to be cynical of the world (see: Somerset in Seven) but quite another to have apparently no connection with humanity whatsoever. Perhaps Micallef could have survived risking the life of rookie Ben Wingate (an actually OK Topher Grace) in a mid-way scene, but little acts like constantly dismissing her mother (Ellen Burstyn) and a bizarre scene where she scoffs at the singing of a young girl just make her come across as downright unlikeable, and the film as tonally uncertain. It's a great genre conceit reversal to write the troubled, alcoholic hero as female, but this isn't the way to bring that to screen.

The next major offender is Scott Abramovitch's script, based on Inger Ash Wolfe's novel. Not only does it resort to the typical visual and topical fallbacks of the genre (isolated locale, religion, unexplained woodland retreat), but it also occasionally needlessly ties itself in knots. The singing girl above is part of a very minor thread that attempts an element of redemption for the killer which isn't required. Discussing a key prayer with priest Father Price (Donald Sutherland), Abramovitch allows Price to digress into meaningless symbolism, explaining - in Latin - several times what the prayer isn't for far too long. During an autopsy on one of the victims the immortal line 'there's no stomach' is followed by Sarandon's not required 'what do you mean there's no stomach?' before a Abramovitch allows one more needless interjection of 'it's been removed'.

Jason Stone directs all of this with a carelessness that allows Sarandon's 'show me the paycheck' performance to fester throughout, as The Calling meanders through a runtime that feels far longer than its stated 108 minutes. Grace is fine and showing signs of actually getting better as he matures and both Gil Bellows (as Sarandon's second in command) and Christopher Heyerdahl give different but similarly committed performances. They are though very lost, in a Cop Thriller as turgid as any of the recent genre offerings.

The Calling is released in UK cinemas on 10th October 2014.

By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

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