Phone Booth
2 out of 5 stars
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There's a simple premise to this film--and a great idea--but it's basically another example of style over substance as the filmmakers try desperately to crank up the tension, but we never feel a single jolt. Stu (Farrell) is a fast-talking New York publicist who makes an illicit call to one of his clients (Holmes) from a phone booth every afternoon. He's trying to lure her into bed, and doesn't want his wife (Mitchell) to see the number on the mobile phone bill. But on this fateful day, a sadistic sniper (Sutherland) phones Stu in the booth and tells him that if he hangs up he'll start shooting. A stand-off ensues with a police negotiator (Whitaker) and a SWAT team all waiting to see what happens next.

Unfortunately, we never have any doubt what will happen, because it's clear that this is a Hollywood movie from the beginning, so no one is really in jeopardy ... except perhaps one of the obnoxious side characters (kapow!). Schumacher injects lots of stylish flourishes both in the camera work and the editing, and Farrell acts his socks off, but we're never remotely worried. This isn't to say it's boring; the twists and histrionics keep us entertained, especially as Sutherland goes so far over the top vocally that you wonder if he thought it was a spoof (everyone else takes it so seriously it hurts). Attempts to make the plot Deep and Meaningful with examinations of personal ambition, fidelity and communication are pretty superficial, really. The surrounding cast doesn't have much to do at all, but Farrell holds the centre of the film very well indeed (although his accent is more than a little wobbly). Like most of Schumacher's work, this film is slick and relatively efficient, but not remotely as good as it thinks it is.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 10.Mar.03

dir Joel Schumacher
scr Larry Cohen
with Colin Farrell, Kiefer Sutherland, Forest Whitaker, Radha Mitchell, Katie Holmes, Richard T Jones, Keith Nobbs, James MacDonald, Paula Jai Parker, Arian Ash, Tia Texada, John Enos III
release US 4.Apr.03; UK 18.Apr.03
03/US 1h21

Mover/shaker. A high-powered New York publicist (Farrell) strolls through Times Square with his faithful assistant (Nobbs) back when it looked like just another day...

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send your review to Shadows... "Once this movie got going, it grabbed me ... and then wound down and ended. Going in, I thought, 'Will this get tiring being stuck in a phone booth the whole time?' On the contrary it seemed like instead of a third act, it ends. Just like the review states, it is not boring in the least but even though it's interesting, it simply follows a logical pattern and quickly ends (it is only 81 mins long). Outside of the basic premise of a gun to the head from afar, I felt little anxiety about the situations or that a surprise was around the corner. The alternative to this is good psychological interplay, which there is not much of either (just a lot of 'Say it!' 'No!' 'SAY IT!'). It doesn't feel like the sniper is really going to pull the trigger at any second, the whole time it feels like Farrell is able to take control of the situation--at least enough to get the message across of what's really going on. It really felt like a sweeps episode of NYPD Blue with great actors--excellent show but not so much so for the theater." --Senor Ding Dong, Chicago 20.Mar.03 your life is on the line

"We went to this because it looked intriguing - a guy stuck in a phone booth? Talking to a psycho? Who makes him say stuff? I wanted to see how or why this would even make sense. Basically, there is a psycho (okay, another psycho in New York) played by Kiefer Sutherland, and it is mostly his voice - but such a creepy sounding voice! Anyway this psycho is sorta like Robin Hood - he is out to get dishonest people, who are not nice to other people. Instead of stealing from the rich for the poor, he points out to dishonest people they need to pay for their dishonesty. It is a suspenseful, engrossing plot - at times we laughed, others we covered our mouths and gripped the armrests hoping something wouldn't happen. I really liked this movie and would recommend it to others." --Laurie T, Minneapolis 25.Apr.03

2003 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall