Film Reviews

PHONE BOOTH

By • Apr 4th, 2003 •

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20th Century Fox / Fox 2000 Pictures
Running time — 80 minutes / No MPAA rating

Director Joel Schumacher is an inconsistent talent: Recently there has been BAD COMPANY and the dreadful FLAWLESS. He also has to take the blame for single-handedly killing the Batman franchise (BATMAN FOREVER and BATMAN AND ROBIN).

Yet, with a tight budget and very short shooting schedule, Schumacher was able to pull off a taut, engrossing thriller. PHONE BOOTH is about a guy in a phone booth who answers a ringing phone and then spends the entire movie stuck there. It doesn’t sound very appealing, but the guy is the very hot, expressively interesting Colin Farrell.

New York publicist Stu Shepard (Colin Farrell) is a cocky up and coming player on the hip see-and-must-be-seen scene. He’s brash, young, and hungry. He wants to get ahead in a tough business where subterfuge and smoke-and-mirrors are essential commodities. Being ruthless is an asset. Every day Stu uses the last phone booth in the city to flirt with Pamela McFadden (Katie Holmes). On this particular day, leaving the booth, the phone starts ringing. Shepard can’t help it – he picks it up. The caller (Kiefer Sutherland) tells Shepard if he hangs up he will shoot him.

The working girls need the phone and when Shepard refuses to hang up, they get a friend with a baseball bat to encourage him to leave. With the bat hitting the booth, Shepard agrees to let The Caller handle it. The man is quickly killed by The Caller’s sniper bullet and the police arrive. Shepard now knows he must take The Caller seriously and submit to his demands for a “soul cleansing.” Apparently, The Caller doesn’t like Shepard trying to score an afternoon with Pamela. He wants him to confess to his wife Kelly (Radha Mitchell).

Too bad Enron’s Kenneth Lay didn’t walk by this ringing phone. The problem with PHONE BOOTH is the insubstantial reason for The Caller to pick on Shepard, especially in the shadow of a city fat with men who purposely entrap the public in shady stock deals and will bankrupt companies for sport. After all, Shepard wasn’t even engaged in an affair, he was just trying, quite unsuccessfully, to begin one.

I guess if Shepard were having an affair, the puritanical audience would have no sympathy for him and side with the sniper. The Caller goes through a hell of an effort tracking Shepard, all in pursuit of a rather meager public confession. Then again, there’s that red dot trained on Shepard’s chest and the police who believe he’s just shot a guy wielding a bat.

Colin Farrell, currently free of movie star mannerisms, is so interesting to watch that he holds our attention as he loses grip on the intractable situation he’s found himself in.

At a fast-paced, neat 80 minutes, Schumacher keeps the screen busy. While credit has to go to screenwriter Larry Cohen for his skill for writing an effectively economical thriller, its Schumacher’s confident handling of the material, with nary an indulgent shot that showcases his sometimes misplaced skill and agility. Schumacher obviously needs his reins held tight, and handily wins the race here.


Cast:
Stu Shepard: Colin Farrell
Caller: Kiefer Sutherland
Capt. Ramey: Forest Whitaker
Kelly Shepard: Radha Mitchell
Pamela McFadden: Katie Holmes
Felicia: Paula Jai Parker

Credits:
Director: Joel Schumacher
Screenwriter: Larry Cohen
Producers: Gil Netter, David Zucker
Executive producer: Ted Kurdyla
Director of photography: Matthew Libatique
Production designer: Andrew Laws
Music: Harry Gregson-Williams
Costume designer: Daniel Orlandi
Editor: Mark Stevens

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