Jose in The Call can check my fluids anytime | Bleader

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Jose in The Call can check my fluids anytime

Posted By on 03.27.13 at 10:30 AM

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Michael Eklund at the fateful gas station in The Call
  • Michael Eklund at the fateful gas station in The Call
There's a poignant moment in The Call, the big-budget exploitation movie currently playing around town, where the villain stops at a gas station to fill up the car he's just stolen. He has a kidnapped girl in the trunk, so naturally he wants to haul out as soon as he can. But the station attendant keeps offering his services. "Can I check your fluids?" he asks. "It'll only take a minute." When the villain refuses, the attendant asks to clean his windshield.

Credited as Jose in the end titles, the attendant is a a heavyset man of middle age with longish hair and a slightly pockmarked face. In most Hollywood action movies, if you were to see a guy like this running a gas station, he'd be reclining in an uncomfortable chair, smoking a joint or reading a porno magazine—anything but making an effort to help his customers. I suspect filmmakers prefer to depict blue-collar types like Jose as caricatures so that audiences don't feel bad if they get gunned down in an action sequence. Collateral damage in more ways than one, they seem expendable even when they're alive.

The next paragraph contains spoilers.

Jose does end up getting killed by the villain in The Call, but his death carries an unexpected weight. In our brief encounter with him, Jose proves himself to possess a sense of duty and common decency. Knowing that the bad guy would kill someone like that (as opposed to a random bum we aren't meant to mourn for even a second) actually makes him scarier.

This scene is in keeping with this surprisingly optimistic film, in which every working person takes his or her job seriously and our nation's surveillance culture becomes a means of bringing communities together. Indeed, The Call could have been titled It Takes a Village to Catch a Serial Killer—the people in it are just that helpful. What strengthens this rosy picture of community is that every individual—from Halle Berry's heroine to Jose the gas station attendant—is believably vulnerable. Prior to its implausible revenge-fantasy conclusion, The Call advances the reasonable message that no one person can respond to a crisis alone. The film acknowledges that high-stress situations can bring on anxiety and feelings of helplessness, and that even the best-intentioned people cannot resolve every crisis they encounter. I find this refreshing in contrast to the fantasies of superhuman prowess that most Hollywood action movies try to sell us.

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