'The Calling' review: Feels like 'Law & Order'

Susan Sarandon in The Calling. (Courtesy)

Susan Sarandon in The Calling. (Courtesy)

Rating

2.5 Stars2.5/5

Liz Braun, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:18 PM ET

Small towns and big murders are the focus of The Calling, a crime thriller with an overlay of religious fanaticism.

The movie is based on the novel by Inger Ash Wolfe (allegedly a pseudonym for a well-known North American writer); it comes to the screen as a clumsy tale, alas, but a strong cast that includes Oscar winner Susan Sarandon elevates matters somewhat.

Sarandon stars in the drama as Hazel Micallef, a detective in the remote Ontario town of Fort Dundas. Hazel has a bad back, a spot of trouble with booze and prescription drugs and plenty of  unfinished emotional business. She is flinty, dedicated and very good at what she does. Watching Sarandon bring this difficult woman to life is the only reason to see The Calling. Well, that and watching her interact with Ellen Burstyn, who plays Sarandon's mother.

A body turns up in Hazel's jurisdiction. That's a rarity in her sleepy little town. What's more, the victim is an aged, church-going friend of Hazel's mom. The dead woman has come to a terrible end, nearly decapitated and with her mouth forced into a strange, twisted pose. Hazel and her partner (Gil Bellows) and a new cop in their area (Topher Grace) soon turn up similar crime scenes from remote towns in far-flung provinces. A visit to a priest (Donald Sutherland) provides Hazel with the link she needs to seek out a serial killer.

Now if she could just convince her superiors of what's going on before somebody else dies … 

The Calling is a feature directorial first from Jason Stone. A veteran would have wrung more tension out of the story, but it's otherwise a decent debut, and Stone had the good sense to bolster the script, Scott Abramovitch's first feature screenplay, with reliable actors. He's needs the actors' shorthand; this is a plot-heavy story with little room for character development. There are some technical glitches and a bit too much coincidence here, not to mention a killer from central casting, but the overall experience is not unlike watching an okay episode of Law & Order.

The Calling opens in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal this Friday. It will expand across Canada next month. 

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