Once you get past the unattractive Harpo Marx hairdo sported by Halle Berry in “The Call” the first 80 minutes of this 98 film presents an interesting thriller before it becomes a cliche of previous thrillers. At that point it falls apart leaving more questions than answers but you really don’t want to waste time trying to figure out what just happened.

The screenplay by Richard D’Ovidio sets up the story of 911 star operator Jordan (Halle Berry) who makes a mistake and feels she is responsible for the death of a young kidnapped victim. Instead of continuing as an operator she now trains newcomers to the 911 center, known as ‘The Hive’ due to all the buzzing continuously going on of dispatchers answering phones with “911, what is your emergency?” and then following through to help solve them all from attempted suicides to a bat flying around in someone’s house. Jordan has a handsome police officer boyfriend, Paul Phillips, (Morris Chestnut) and with the help of some pills seems to have recovered from her previous experience only to once again be put in the same position. One of things she keeps telling the trainees is to never make promises to people on the other end of the line.

Casey Wilson (Abigail Breslin) has been kidnapped in a mall garage by Michael Foster (Michael Eklund) who carries on in the Norman Bates, Hannibal Lecter and/or “Buffalo Bill” disturbed mode of killer. He puts her in the trunk of his car and using a cell phone, (What did thrillers use before cell phones?), she calls 911 and when the operator seems to be fumbling Jordan takes over. In most thrillers logic has to be parked at the door before the movie starts and this is no different but the various ways in which Jordan advises Casey and the sadistic actions of Michael as he travels Los Angeles highways and byways makes for gripping times in the film before it takes a wrong turn and makes the women action heroines.

Berry does her usual efficient job while Breslin takes a huge step into being ready for adult roles . Eklund goes from a serious, sadistic killer to, at times, the script making him an object of ridicule. Michael Imperioli as an innocent victim brings an element of surprise as does Jose Zuniga. The direction by Brad Anderson is more or less pedestrian while the music by John Debney plays with the emotions.

“The Call” is rated R with gratuitous violence, sex and language but being a good thriller the first 80 minutes before going off the tracks and falling into the mundane.