Susan Sarandon plays grouchy and depressed small town detective Hazel Micallef. Living with her mum and addicted to painkillers and booze due to emotional and physical torment, she’s fed up with life. When two murders happen in her otherwise quiet town, Sarandon suspects there might be a serial killer on the loose and springs (or rather, hobbles) into action.
Still, it manages to tweak a few things to deliver an occasionally poignant and almost fresh detective drama. The film has its moments. It’s refreshing to see a female lead in what tends to be a male centric genre. Sarandon carries the film well, providing a delightfully grumpy and pained performance. Her backstory is typical, but it’s delivered with subtlety and maturity and the emotional depth of Sarandon’s performance permeates the entire film.
Topher Grace is also likable in the film as the young new cop from another town. It’s still the typical new kid done good role he often plays but he does it well, adding nuances and skill that allow him to shine. The villain is similarly interesting if again, all too typical. Christopher Heyerdahl plays him with a mysterious sense of a higher calling, but comes dangerously close to veering into bad guy ham, thanks largely to the script. Donald Sutherland suffers in a similar way in his supporting role. He acts well but struggles against some ropey scripting and clichés.
The Calling sometimes feels more like a television drama than a big studio film, somewhat akin to one of the better and more grounded episodes of the X Files. This is actually more of a strength than a weakness. It’s good to see a film like this remaining so grounded. The core metier of the film is in its human characters, and thankfully, they’re never forgotten or pushed aside for spectacle. But it also provides few actual thrills and you might find it more somnolent than thrilling.
The film treads old ground with some slightly newer shoes but doesn’t do enough to truly shine. It’s worth a watch for Sarandon’s performance. If you enjoy cops and murder dramas, it’s for you but there’s little else to entice viewers.