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BY ADAM WAJNBERG
May 21, 2003
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I went into this film expecting to hate it. I had already
lined up my anti-Hollywood conveyor belt thriller rant and my anti-Colin
Farrell rant and my anti-Schumacher rant, which is really little more
than a curse-filled critique of Batman
In the first 2 - 3 minutes of the film, I smirked as
my worst criticisms started to manifest themselves on screen. The
usual shenanigans -- whiz bang electrical gizmos flying across the
air in staccato images, as if to say "Look at how nifty (yet
sinister) the 21st century is! IRONY!!!!!!!"
Unfortunately for cynics everywhere, the initial promise
displayed by the first few minutes of the film -- that it's going
to be another crass piece of garbage ripe for the picking -- fails
to materialize: Phone Booth is an above average, compact thriller
that manages to tell the whole story in a slim 90 minutes. It's a
near perfect antidote to the recent slew of sequels
and epics that moviegoers
have had to wade through in the past 2 years.
The story is simple enough- New York jerk Stu Sheppard
(played quite capably by real life jerk Colin
Farrell) is a fast talking media publicist. We watch as he makes
his way through a busy New York neighborhood, skinny toady in tow.
He's on his cell phone, making deals, busting balls, doing the stuff
that jerks do. He stops to make a call to an aspiring actress he wants
to bed (Katie Holmes, who
is very good looking).
After he hangs up, the public phone he has used to make
his clandestine call (we are told this is the last private phone booth
in New York, as it is soon to be replaced by a phone kiosk) starts
to ring. He instinctively picks it up, and the spooky, psychotic voice
on the other end (the brilliant Kiefer
Sutherland, who has the most impact of all the cast despite only
showing his face for once scene right at the end of the flick) tells
him not to leave, tells him he knows all about him, and tells him
he has an automatic rifle aimed at his head that he's willing to use
if Stu hangs up.
Hookers want to use the phone, though, and after a brief
scuffle with a large pimp, Stu is trapped -- Mr. Psycho Man has shot
large pimp, and now the cops want him to come out of the phone booth,
thinking Stu is the killer. The afternoon unfolds with Mr. Psycho
caller man playing mindfuck games with Stu, while confused, sympathetic
cop (Forest Whitaker, in a role that barely taxes him) slowly pieces
together the situation. Throw into the mix Stu's wife, Kelly (Radha
Mitchell, also good looking) and we have our story. By the end of
the film, Mr Psycho man gets Stu to confess to just about everyone
what a big, phony jerk he is.
Why Colin Farrell insists on portraying himself as such
a cock to the media is beyond me. He alienates a lot of cynical people
with his scruffy, tough guy image, despite the public knowledge that
he's the well to do son of a famous Irish soccer player and that he
went to the poshest schools in Dublin. He's really quite talented.
He should play up his whole "talented actor" schtick and
drop the whole "strutting rich boy who thinks he's tough"
Joel Schumacher does what Jerry
Bruckheimer can't in this movie -- he avoids insulting the intelligence
of the audience. There's no Armageddon-style uber-jingoism, and there's
no Enemy of The State hyper-paranoia. There's an underlying theme
relating to the loss of privacy in today's world, and it skirts a
higher message regarding substance over image, but it plays them with
admirable restraint. No sappy backstories either -- Forest Whitaker's
Captain Ramey is obviously coming down from a bad divorce, but it's
barely touched upon. Not a single flashback or soft edged shot slows
down the pace, and there are no power ballads.
I seriously doubt this movie will do much at the box
office, which is a shame because it deserves attention. The buzz has
been pretty low, but I reckon it'll have a good afterlife on video/cable.
Phone Booth: **** (out of 5)
Die Hard 3: **1/2
Stars: Colin Farrell, Kiefer Sutherland, Katie Holmes
Release Date: May 22, 2003
Running Time: 90 minutes
Showing: General release