The Calling Review

Posted: August 2, 2014 in Drama, Reviews, Thriller
Tags: , , , , , ,

susan_sarandon-the_callingSusan Sarandon is a wonderful, accomplished actress, capable of a broad range of roles, but the one thing she cannot do at this stage of her career is convincingly play the part of a small-time cop investigating a series of gruesome murders. The Calling does not fail because of the casting of Sarandon as the tin badge in a one-horse, two-detective town in eastern Canada, who steals prescription pills from crime scenes and washes them down with Jim Beam, but the glacial pace of the story gives ample time to dwell on the mistake.

Sarandon plays Detective Hazel Micallef, a back surgery survivor who lives with her mom in Port Dundas – 82-year old Ellen Burstyn, who, like the 68-year old Sarandon, is an Oscar winner. The Calling stockpiles so much underused talent that it resembles the Los Angeles Dodgers outfield. Burstyn’s big scene in the film is when she falls asleep in the living room chair, leaving Sarandon and the audience to believe for a moment that she’s fallen victim to the film’s serial killer.

But wait – is Simon (Christopher Heyerdahl) a serial killer or is he channeling Jesus Christ on a bad day? Slitting an old lady’s throat or removing a rich man’s stomach might just be intended as diversions to throw the police off the trail. So what’s an alcoholic, pill-popping, bacon-sandwich-eating, suicide-attempting, not-talking-about-that-lost-baby, one-mistake-from-forced-retirement cop to do? Naturally, you throw the new kid on the force (yeah, 36-year old Topher Grace plays the new kid) into the deep end of the pool, by having him race across Canada without informing local law enforcement along the way to track down Simon before he completes his resurrection prayer.

The script by Scott Abramovitch from the first of three Inger Ash Wolfe novels featuring 61-year old detective Hazel Micallef, is both ludicrous and tedious. Perhaps the story works on paper, but it fails on the screen. Director Jason Stone tries to bring a Fargo vibe to the proceedings in the early going (bleak winter, female cop, grisly death), but the absence of humor – sardonic or other – undoes the effort, and Sarandon is no Frances McDormand when it comes to exasperated female constables. Gil Bellows is solid as the town’s other detective; Donald Sutherland is less successful as a priest who may hold the secret to the mystery.

The professionalism of the production initially makes up for many of the shortcomings. The scenes between Sarandon and Burstyn play out wonderfully, but add little to the plot. The camera work and cinematography are stellar, although by film’s end, the overall atmosphere of gravitas becomes suffocating. Additionally, the narrative approach is so literal, even which examining the mystical elements of Christianity, that the final scene seems to be tacked on from another film and contains none of the oomph of a successful twist.

One and a half stars.


  1. Excellent review – reflects my observations exactly. The only point I will add is that I had the entire plot plus “who done it” figured out in about 5 minutes – except for the convoluted reasonings!

  2. Tyson Henderson says:

    I enjoyed the review and couldn’t agree more. However,the story takes place in Ontario (Ontario license plate, Hamilton & Toronto were both mentioned) – eastern Canada. Topher grace did jump a plane to visit BC and Montreal briefly.

    • Mr. Karma says:

      Thank you very much for pointing this out. Correction made to text.

      • Chris says:

        mr karma. Viewing your recent reviews, there is a definite bias toward you only watching low budget films viewed by very few people. Whilst I can see a niche for such reviews, if you are going to review more mainstream media please don’t get on your high horse and call it crap for the sake of wanting to appear reverse pompous.
        This is a good film. Good plot, good acting, well shot and (above all) enjoyable.
        You are not omnipotent, you’re just a snobby critic.

  3. Rita says:

    Thanks Chris, I agree with you. I enjoyed this atmospheric movie, and don’t see a base for such vivisection/criticism.

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