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Phone Booth Movie Review

  • Holly McClure Movie Reviewer
  • 2003 4 Apr
  • COMMENTS
<i>Phone Booth</i> Movie Review

Genre: Drama, Thriller

Rating: R (for pervasive language and some violence)

Release Date:  April 4, 2003

Actors:  Colin Farrell, Forest Whitaker, Kiefer Sutherland, Katie Holmes, Radha Mitchell

Director:  Joel Schumacher

Special Notes:  The release of ''Phone Booth'' was delayed due to the Washington, D.C., sniper case, and since the picture was shot well before Colin Farrell was a star, it will probably prove to be one of the rare instances when a movie gains in commercial value by sitting on the shelf.

Plot:  Stu Shepard (Farrell) is a small-time hustling New York publicist who uses anybody and everybody he can, to get what he wants. He lies, makes promises, whatever it takes to look important and he enjoys getting away with it. Each day he stops at an old-fashioned Bell Atlantic phone booth (supposedly the last one in midtown Manhattan) in order to make his daily phone call to his favorite client, Pamela (Holmes), an ingénue he's trying to seduce. He uses the pay phone so that his wife, Kelly (Mitchell), won't see the calls on his cell phone bill. One day he answers the ringing phone and a stranger (voice of Sutherland) entraps him in conversation by telling Stu intimate details about his life and relationships, particularly his wife and girlfriend. Stu threatens to hang up but soon discovers the caller is a sniper perched close by who warns Stu that; ''If you hang up, I will kill you.'' Things get complicated when the sniper kills a pimp who was harassing Stu about using his hookers' phone, proving to Stu that the sniper means what he says. When the police arrive, Capt. Ramey (Whitaker) tries to negotiate with Stu but soon realizes his dilemma. With the TV cameras recording every detail, soon Kelly and Pam are at the scene, putting both their lives in jeopardy.

Good:  Who would ever think that the sins of a publicist would be enough to make a sniper want to hunt him down? Well, actually the premise of the movie goes much deeper and far beyond the emphasis of the profession. I liked this movie because of the intense story -- a sniper playing God to people on the street and holding them accountable for their sins. But it's not an easy movie to watch. Farrell is brilliant and does a superb job going from a cocky and arrogant man who values little and appreciates nothing to a man who appreciates everything about his life -- including his wife! Seeing him admit to who and what he really is almost embarrassing -- you feel his humiliation and sympathize with his humanness. You would think a plot that has mainly one location throughout the entire movie would become old or boring but amazingly this story kept me on the edge of my seat till the credits. Schumacher is famous for his big scale productions -- "I really see 'Phone Booth' as a total entertainment, a big movie in scale and ambition. I think audiences will experience a real roller-coaster ride", adds screenwriter Larry Cohen. "This is one of those movies where you can't get up for popcorn and soda. Joel really makes you feel that you're trapped right there with Colin, that you're right there with him for the entire ride. There just aren't too many movies like it." Sutherland's voice is perfect for this part -- he adds just the right amount of craziness to it. Up until the very last frame there are little twists in the story but the essence of what the movie is about will perhaps be most disturbing to some people. This is a story about being truthful with who and what you really are. It's a story that strips away the layers we all apply to our lives and reveals the bare facts about the kind of people we really are and how we treat other people. I like the fact that this story deals with marital dishonesty and shows how sometimes men (and women) rationalize their cheating behavior as "harmless flirtation". Stu feels that since he hasn't actually slept with Pam, what he's doing isn't wrong; it's just 'flirting'. The sniper makes him publicly admit he's a liar and forces him to confess his sin of "wanting" to sleep with Pam. The sniper also forces Stu to be honest about himself, how he dresses, treats people, what he says and how he portrays himself to others. By the time this movie is over, it will either be an entertaining movie for most, or a freeing and almost cathartic experience for others. Why? Because as we see Stu come clean and confess things about his behavior, character and actions, it's only natural that his confessions will prompt many to feel or at least think the same way. How many married men (or women) who are having affairs or even thinking about having one, will go to this movie with their spouse and after seeing Stu confess, walk out with conviction in dealing with who and what they really are? I dare say there will be a lot of interesting discussions between couples after seeing this movie!

Bad:  This is a thrilling drama for adults who can handle the mature subject matter. There's lots of crude language and dialogue with strong profanity (over 100 uses of the "f" word) and religious profanity. Across from the phone booth are various sex shops with hookers standing outside (a few of them try to pick a fight with Stu). Stu has a bloody ear after the sniper purposefully fires a shot that nicks his ear. We see a man shot in the back and another man's throat slit and several flashbacks to men being killed.

Bottom Line: If it's hard for you to imagine how an entire movie could be made about a man in a phone booth, go see this movie. You won't be disappointed! I enjoyed this movie for the many truths it brought out about human nature; we can all see ourselves in Stu! This is a good story for married couples to see because it emphasizes the importance of truth and true love in a relationship.