Everyone speaks in code in Richard Ledes’s thriller: After aging executive Jimmy Stevens (Langella), known for enabling a mysterious corporation to gouge Third World energy prices, suddenly deep-sixes his career, a jilted suit announces a hit on the higher-up by barking intensely into a mobile: “Unless you tell me otherwise, I’m gonna buy some art.” Hint, hint. Stevens himself employs inscrutable doublespeak (and a cell-phone voice distorter) to hide his identity from a bird-watching detective (Gould), whom he hires to make sure his inevitable demise doesn’t go unwitnessed.
The winner of the “Made in NY” award at last year’s Tribeca Film Festival (more a statement on the competition than an unqualified commendation of achievement), The Caller hides its influences in plain sight, down to a photographer-in-the-park sequence that plays as an uninspired homage to Blowup. There’s a vaguely appealing elegance to the way the film moves—that is, when the actors stop spouting laughably portentous dialogue long enough for one to appreciate the film’s pacing. But the director’s own codes are too often two-dimensional. From the girl who exists solely to prompt Jimmy’s remembrance of things past to the repeated flashbacks to a WWII French village, The Caller is all floating signs and no gravity.