Ever see a film that feels like half of a good movie mixed up with a half of a bad movie? The Call embod­ies that sort of strange dichoto­my, offer­ing a treat­ment of a high con­cept premise that match­es every good instinct as to how it should play out with a equal num­ber of baf­fling­ly bad choic­es.

The premise revolves around the Los Angeles call cen­ter that han­dles all 911 calls. Jordan (Halle Berry) is a vet­er­an 911 oper­a­tor going about her dai­ly work when she gets a call from a young wom­an being stalked in her house by an intrud­er. When the girl gets dis­con­nect­ed, Jordan breaks the rules and calls her back — thus tip­ping off the killer to the girl’s loca­tion. She lis­tens on in hor­ror as the intrud­er bru­tal­ly mur­ders the girl.

Months lat­er, Jordan is work­ing as a super­vi­sor and avoid­ing doing calls when one of the new oper­a­tors gets a fran­tic call she can’t han­dle. Jordan jumps in to pick up the slack and is intro­duced to Casey (Abigail Breslin), a young girl who has been chlo­ro­formed and thrown in a trunk by a kid­nap­per. She strug­gles to help the girl out of her predica­ment as the kid­nap­per tries to out­wit her and the L.A.P.D. When Jordan real­izes the kid­nap­per is the same man who mur­dered that girl months ago, she vows not to let it hap­pen again.

The plot is a solid enough high-con­cept premise but it has notable flaws, some of them added by the treat­ment it gets in Richard D’Ovidio’s script. For starters, the premise hinges on an expe­ri­enced 911 call oper­a­tor mak­ing the dumb­est of rook­ie mis­takes to kick-start the plot. The sto­ry also suf­fers from thin, some­times car­toon­ish char­ac­ter­i­za­tions: Jordan and Casey are com­pe­tent­ly drawn if a bit dull, the killer gets pro­gres­sive­ly more ridicu­lous as the film goes along and every sup­port­ing char­ac­ter is a card­board cutout.

That said, once Casey is in the trunk and call­ing Jordan for help, The Call has a good stretch of about 45 min­utes where it real­ly cooks as a thriller. Brad Anderson served as direc­tor here and brings a stripped-down, jit­tery feel to the sus­pense mechan­ics, mak­ing effec­tive, unnerv­ing use of extreme close­ups and fast edit­ing. It’s kind of sad to see a direc­tor of this pedi­gree (Session 9, Transsiberian) being wast­ed on a pot­boil­er but he makes the most of his work here. Berry and Breslin both do good work dur­ing this sec­tion of the film — this is dou­bly impres­sive for Berry when you con­sid­er that she spends the film sad­dled with a ridicu­lous “Sideshow Bob” wig that should have nev­er been allowed in front of a cam­era.

However, The Call reach­es the end of this qual­i­ty stretch when it reach­es its third act — and every­thing goes hay­wire. The strength of the film up to this point was that Jordan could only rely on her wits and skills as an oper­a­tor to aid the vic­tim — and the film’s cre­ative team makes the dumb deci­sion of mak­ing her turn vig­i­lante once it seems the killer might get away. She breaks all rules of log­ic by going off alone to track down the killer with­out telling any­one else — and her vis­it to the killer’s lair is both lurid and cliched, rely­ing heav­i­ly on bor­rowed imagery and stag­ing from Silence Of The Lambs (the cam­era also lingers in a dis­turbing way on teenage Breslin in just a bra and jeans). To add insult to injury, the “sur­prise” coda betrays every­thing the film has estab­lished about its hero­ines for a real­ly dumb, knee­jerk jolt.

In short, The Call is frus­trat­ing because it could have avoid­ed all of its mis­takes with a rewrite. Berry and Breslin deserved bet­ter for their hard work, not to men­tion a good cast of most­ly wast­ed sup­port­ing actors like Roma Maffia, Morris Chestnut and Michael Imperioli. Anderson’s direc­tion is solid through­out but can’t over­come the thin script and ridicu­lous third-act sto­ry deci­sions. The results are easy enough to watch as they unfurl — but the sum total will leave you unsat­is­fied.