Overview: A small town detective attempts to solve a series of gruesome murders linked to ancient Catholicism. 2014; distributed by Vertical Entertainment; rated R; 108 minutes.
The She-Detective: Hard-boiled detective movies are few and far between these days, and those that feature a leading female are even harder to come by. Although we see the occasional rookie cop portrayal (see Angelina Jolie in The Bone Collector) and sometimes we’re even gifted with a seasoned veteran or two (Angie again in Taking Lives or Sandra Bullock in Murder By Numbers), most movie detectives of the jaded, alcoholic, pill-popping persuasion usually come in the form of a man. So it’s refreshing to see Susan Sarandon pick up the torch as Detective Hazel Micallef and carry it through the quiet town of Port Dundas in The Calling. The story unfolds to reveal itself to be just as much of an intense look at a woman who rediscovers her will to live as it is a catalog of events that follow the hunt for a hyper-religious serial killer. Sarandon’s Hazel Micallef is as old school as it gets, slipping whiskey in her coffee and throwing tennis balls at her window to get the attention of her coworkers, and she does it all with a convincing mixture of disdain and amusement. Another surprising role reversal comes in the form of Topher Grace as Ben Wingate, the new cop on the block. He plays the proud role of bonafide errand boy for Sarandon without so much as batting an eye. Micallef not only hangs with the big boys, she bosses them around a time or two. And most of the time they listen.
Dark Places: Director Jason Stone takes more than one page out of the David Fincher playbook with The Calling. The grim and melancholy undertones along with the religious inspired killings boast obvious influence from the likes of Se7en and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Although The Calling maintains its somber mood throughout, Stone does manage to break up the pace with some light–hearted banter between Detective Micallef and her colleagues, Wingate, and Gil Bellows as Detective Ray Green. As for the murder case itself, the crimes are less of a religious homage than those in similar films previously mentioned, and more of a far-fetched attempt to draw the audience into the world of a few radicals trying to sacrifice a few to save one. The game of cat and mouse that results in the climactic face off between killer and anti-hero is, at best, stretched thin, but since the final product focuses more on Micallef’s growth than the killer’s demise, it doesn’t detract much from the success of the story.