The Caller Movie Review

Richard Ledes's cool and haunted neo-noir The Caller at least for half its running time goes down like a smoky Old Fashioned. But as the film winds down, the cocktail turns out to have been mixed with a vat of cheap bourbon.

Frank Langella, in all his icy glory, plays Jimmy Stevens, a meticulous and cultured executive from a nefarious international energy conglomerate called the EN Corporation. The EN Corporation has committed atrocities in South America that Jimmy could not abide, and he has blown the whistle on their corporate evils. But since the corporation has its agents everywhere, Jimmy knows he is doomed and, with a slump of his shoulders and deep sigh, he awaits his impending assassination (in Red Bank, New Jersey no less).

Aside from sitting around on benches on Central Park and reading Art of Memory as he awaits his fate, Jimmy also hires a rumpled, retired, bird-watching detective, Frank Turlotte (Elliot Gould) to track his movements during his final weeks. Frank, not saying much for his detective work, doesn't realize that Jimmy, utilizing a telephone voice distorter, is the same guy that Frank is following.

Ledes captures New York City in stylish widescreen compositions, even if most of the buildings in town are photographed held up by support scaffolding, as if the vertical city is ready to fall down upon the characters. Ledes channels Vertigo, Rear Window, Chinatown, and Blow-Up to move the film forward, but an intrusive flashback to World War II France overtakes the noir aspects of the film, redirecting the film back to a troublesome character study.

Langella and Gould play their roles as if through an ooze of portent, and their interactions resemble acting exercises whispered in Torquemada's waiting room. Langella is all brooding and doom as he awaits his destiny and only perks up when he visits his dying mother. Unbelievable flashbacks to Jimmy's traumatic childhood in France during World War II with another boy muddy the waters even further. (It's doubly confusing since it is difficult to tell which of the actors in the flashback is supposed to be Jimmy, since neither of the young actors bears even a passing resemblance to Langella; Ledes should have checked out The Twelve Chairs or The Wrath of God to at least get a bead on what Langella might have looked like as a youth.)

Still, it is great to see Gould back again in a detective mode and his waddling around his cramped apartment while checking out birds implies what may have happened to Phillip Marlowe if aged into dotage.

There is another detective in the film: Anabel Sosa, a little girl who mines Jimmy's past for the film's superfluous backstory. Sosa is quite a find and there is a nice little scene of her sitting with her doll, calmly trying to get to doll to sit up, that is a breather from Ledes's hermetic control of the film. Also on hand is Laura Harring of Mulholland Drive fame, as a nightclub chanteuse who, like Dorothy Lamour in Road to Hong Kong, has nothing to do with anything and just appears as a sultry smoke-and-mirrors cleavage display three-quarters of the way through the proceedings.

Aside from featuring Gould's best role in decades, The Caller is just a murky, pretentious muddle.

Which is it, Czech or Slovakia?

Cast & Crew

Director :

Starring : , , , Anabel Sosa


The Caller Rating

" Grim "

Rating: PG-13, 2008


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