Film Review: The Caller
By Frank Scheck, February 17, 2009 03:13 ET
Bottom Line: This convoluted cat and mouse-style thriller features better performances than it deserves.
Nazis and evil multi-national corporations are two bedrock elements of contemporary thrillers, and “The Caller” blends the two with the sort of self-important seriousness that fairly begs to be criticized. Although stylishly directed by Richard Ledes, this film starring Frank Langella and Elliot Gould would probably not be receiving a theatrical release were it not for the former’s current prominence in “Frost/Nixon.”
The Oscar-nominated actor plays Jimmy Stevens, a corporate executive who blows the whistle on his company’s nefarious business activities in Latin America and is subsequently marked for a contract hit. For reasons that only gradually become clear, he hires former cop-turned-private eye Frank (Gould) to put him under surveillance, disguising his voice and not revealing that Frank’s quarry is also his client.
The resulting cat-and-mouse game — during which the two disparate types form an unlikely connection when Jimmy encourages Frank to make friends with his subject — occupies most of the film’s running time, to gradually diminishing results. Numerous flashbacks to World War II-occupied France in which two young friends are saved from the Nazis by Americans provide further clues to a mystery which seems too contrived to care about.
Considering that the screenplay was co-written by Alain-Didier Weill, a psychoanalyst, the more relevant question is why the motivations of the main characters are so sketchily drawn. Fortunately, Langella and Gould are such pros that they make their performances compelling nonetheless. Langella underplays with his customary smooth authority, while Gould’s shambling turn amusingly recalls his similarly scruffy Philip Marlowe in “The Long Goodbye.”
Production: Belladonna Prods
Cast: Frank Langella, Elliott Gould, Laura Harring, Anabel Sosa, Helen Stenborg, Gregory Ellis, Axel Feldmann
Director: Richard Ledes
Screenplay: Richard Ledes, Alain-Didier Weill
Producers: Linda Moran, Rene Bastian, Richard Ledes
Director of photography: Stephen Kazmierski
Editor: Madeleine Gavin
Production design: Kelly McGehee
Music: Robert Miller
Costume designer: Tere Duncan
No rating, 95 minutes