2000 Pictures presents a film directed by Joel Schumacher.
Written by Larry Cohen. Running time: 81 minutes. Rated
R (for pervasive language and some violence). Starring
Colin Farrell, Kiefer Sutherland, Forest Whitaker, Katie
Holmes, Radha Mitchell.
Joel Schumacher seems to have a strange pattern going. He'll
make one mediocre-to-unwatchable movie, and then follow it
up with a good one. After making the oddly somnambulant 8MM,
he made the independent war film, Tigerland. And now,
after Bad Company, we have Phone Booth. I doubt
Schumacher will ever be forgiven for what he did to Batman
(Batman & Robin), but he still makes steps in the
right direction; Phone Booth is his most recent one.
underlying message of the movie is obvious - we spend way
too much time on the phone. Phone Booth opens with
a completely unecessary voice-over (by someone not even in
the movie), talking about how many people talk on the phone
at one time. After this, we are introduced to Stuart Shephard
(Colin Farrell), a loud-mouthed publicist who spends every
last moment of his day on a phone. When we first see him,
he is strolling down the sidewalk, chatting on his cell phone,
making deals and not taking no for an answer. When he stops
by a pay-phone to make a call to a pretty young actress named
Pamela (Katie Holmes), with whom he's considering having an
affair, he gets a call from a mysterious stranger (Kiefer
Sutherland), who says he has a rifle trained on Stu, and will
kill him unless he changes his ways. The thing is, he can't
hang up the phone, or tell anyone about what's going on. When
the voice kills a bystander, the police, led by the captain
(Forest Whitaker), swarm the scene, and Stu is the suspect.
prospect doesn't sound all that exciting - after all, what
fun could a movie set almost entirely inside a phone booth
be - but, like Speed, Phone Booth keeps it interesting.
You can't think too hard (if at all), but if you just sit
back and let the movie's twists and high-energy performances
take you in, it's actually highly enjoyable.
running length, 80 minutes, is just about perfect for this
type of movie. Any longer, and Phone Booth would certainly
overstay its welcome. In fact, it only leads to one major
problem. The screenplay attempts to develop the police captain
and make him more human by throwing in various tidbits about
his life - his troubled marriage, etc. - but there isn't enough
time to make these any more than just facts that lead to nothing.
Forest Whitaker does a great job with the material provided,
but this is one of those rare times when a two-dimensional
generic cop would have perhaps worked better.
Farrell puts his trademark devil-may-care attitude to great
use as the fast-talking Stu, and manages to display great
range once his character realizes that perhaps the only way
out of the situation is through his death. Kiefer Sutherland,
a talented actor who has never had much of a movie career,
takes a break from his television show 24 as the disembodied
voice on the telephone. His character is only seen for a brief
moment, so credit must be given to Sutherland for doing quite
a lot with what he's given.
is a great example of a popcorn movie. As mentioned earlier,
there are numerous plot holes, but credit must be given to
screenwriter Larry Cohen for keeping them from becoming obvious
until after the credits have rolled. The movie occasionally
tries to be a little more than what it is, and at these times
it becomes less effective, but as a whole, it is a singularly
satisfying experience, and the best thriller of 2003 to-date.
2003 Matt Noller