A movie directed by Joel Schumacher
Joel Schumacher (8 MM, FALLING DOWN) directs this suspense drama set in New York City's Times Square. A wannabe hotshot entertainment publicist who's more intent on posturing for his unpaid assistant than he is in actually working, Stu Shepherd (Colin … see full wiki
Stu Shepard (Colin Farrell) is a sleazy, New York publicist who lies to his clients and his press contacts using two cell phones. Because his wife (Radha Mitchell) checks his phone bills, Stu steps into a phone booth near Times Square everyday to call Pam (Katie Holmes), a pretty, young actress. In this overtly moralistic fable, Stu's extramarital sins are limited to taking off his wedding ring for his daily phone calls. In other words, Stu has merely coveted someone else, but it is for his falseness that director Joel Schumacher and writer Larry Cohen want Stu to be punished.
One fateful day, Stu's lies catch up with him as the phone in his booth rings. Unable to resist the urge to answer a ringing phone, Stu picks up the receiver and hears, essentially, the voice of God on the other end. The caller (Kiefer Sutherland) knows a good deal about Stu's life as he has been watching him using a telescopic rifle and has bugged the phone booth. Stu tries to pay the caller off with free publicity and cash, but that offer is merely superficial. This moral sniper objects to the way Stu uses people and wants him to confess his disloyalty to his wife and his marital status to his possible girlfriend. Stu becomes a prisoner to both the caller and his own lies.
The makers of Phone Booth made some interesting choices in this film, not all of which worked. For one thing, I thought it would be more effective if the voice of the caller sounded as if it were coming through a phone line as opposed to a voice-over. Also, I thought the documentary-like opening sequence about the number of phones is New York City was unnecessary and tacky. The ending was rather corny, as well. However, I liked the fact that the bulk of the film takes place in and around the phone booth, as opposed to cross-cutting to Stu's wife or some other scene.
During the beginning portion the conversation, area prostitutes try to get Stu to leave the booth, adding some humor to the otherwise stern tale. Apparently this movie is supposed to take place before Mayor Giuliani removed the sex from Times Square, or maybe Hollywood just forgot about that detail. Nevertheless, the prostitutes try to get Stu to end his phone call so they can conduct business. One hooker delivers the best line of the movie: "You done almost injured my dick hand!" as she bangs on the glass of the booth.
Unlike most movies where it is the women in the sex industry who are criticized for their low moral character, it is the pimp who gets offed in Phone Booth. Pimp Mario comes out with a baseball bat to try to beat Stu out of the booth. During the struggle, the sniper shoots the pimp, saving Stu. However, everyone thinks that Stu shot Mario, and the police arrive by the dozens.
The cops tell Stu to come out with his hands up, but the caller says he'll shoot Stu if he leaves the booth. Thus, the psychological standoff begins. Stu says that the cops could mistake his cell phone for a gun and shoot him "41 times," which made it clear to me that Stu would have no chance of surviving the showdown were he a black man, as opposed to an well-dressed, white guy, ironic since his fancy clothes are one of the things about Stu to which the sniper objects.
In a blatant and pathetic attempt to add depth to the cops' characters, the filmmakers add the fact that Captain Ramey (Forest Whitaker) was in therapy following his divorce. Whitaker was supposed to be a warm and sympathetic character, but his acting was stiff and he looked like he was reading cue cards. Another useless detail is Ramey's rivalry with the negotiator who is brought in.
In general, Colin Farrell's acting was excellent, as he is expected to portray a range of emotions while trapped in a tiny, glass cage. Occasionally his Irish accent seeped through the Bronx façade, making him all the more attractive. I would love to see Farrell in something set in Ireland so he could speak naturally. Neither Katie Holmes nor Radha Mitchell do much more than look at Farrell adoringly, and Holmes is especially insipid.
Overall, I enjoyed Phone Booth, an unusual, intentionally low-budget, psychological thriller. But, in the end, the flagrant moralizing got on my nerves. Big-time Hollywood producers criticizing a New York publicist for being a phony and stepping on the little guys to get to the top? I just didn't buy it. Besides, they made it just cheesy enough that it could have been a made-for-TV movie.
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 13 and Older
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