Cast & Crew info:
Produced by Ted
Kurdyla, Gil Netter, Eli Richbourg and David Zucker; Directed
by Joel Schumacher; Screenwritten by Larry Cohen
Rated R for pervasive language and some violence;
Running Time - 81 Minutes
Domestic Release Dates:
April 4, 2003
by DAVID KEYES
not very safe to be on a phone anymore. Just ask anyone
who gets stuck in traffic next to a driver with his ear
glued to a highly-distracting cellphone, or the guy who
takes a call inside the house when he should be keeping
an eye on his kids at the deep end of the swimming pool.
Consider the working woman who is receiving obscene phone
calls because of the way she dresses, and think of the teenagers
who are cleverly manipulated into a death trap by murderous
men who ask with a certain rustic charm in their voice,
"do you like scary movies?" The phone itself isn't
necessarily a culprit to these kinds of conflictsafter
all, would Alexander Graham Bell have invented it if he
knew it would cause so much dismay?but as the movies
continue to tell us, they can be merciless magnets for deception
and betrayal, easily turning an ordinary day into one we'd
rather forget ever happened.
film directors ranging from Alfred Hitchcock to Wes Craven
have found a sinister solace in implementing these devices
as sources of terror, and now the concept is revived once
again in Joel Schumacher's latest cinematic venture, the
taut and tense New York street thriller "Phone Booth."
Here, the phone exists not as a mere tool, however, but
as a focal point of the story in which every situation and
direction is determined. One might ask how a movie can get
away with revolving itself around one basic object, but
the answer turns out to be more simple than they might realize.
This isn't a movie about detailing or meandering or even
caring about plot. What it is, instead, is 80 minutes of
pure and unflinching brilliance, a nonstop adrenaline rush
that is as exhilarating and engrossing as the great summer
blockbusters of the past.
the big lights and behind the colorful facades of America's
most treasured metropolis, a cold world of politics thrives
off its innocent but naive citizens, allowing clever manipulators
to take the blissful ignorance of some and turn it into
wealth and power. Stu Shepard (Colin Farrell) is one such
being, a calculating, disconnected, shrewd and egotistical
publicist who gleefully taunts unsuspecting clients with
promises he has no intentions of keeping. Not unlike many
movie characters in his field of work, he isn't even phased
by that apparent sense of inhumanity, either; in fact, he
embraces the frigid nature of the business and foolishly
tinkers with anyone he can, including a rising rap star
who is given the impression that his high-profile publicist
can make appearance schedules with a mere snap of his wrist.
Stu isn't just in this world for the fame and fortunehe
genuinely seems to enjoy playing games with others.
Shepherd, however, does have his share of blind spots. During
a daily routine that consists mostly of him walking up and
down busy New York streets while his overworked assistant
manages incoming business calls, he stops at a phone boothprobably
the last active one in the city, we are informedto
place a call to Pamela McFadden (Katie Holmes), an aspiring
actress that Stu is secretly pursuing. The scenario is ultimately
convenient, because if his wife Kelly (Radha Mitchell) ever
suspect him of cheating, there would be no record of mysterious
calls being made on his cellphone to support her suspicion.
After the most recent conversation with his potential mistress,
however, his wife becomes the least of his worries.
as soon as Stu lets go of the receiver, the phone in the
booth rings. Picking it up out of curiosity, he is greeted
on the other end by a man who claims to know him (voiced
here by the unseen Kiefer Sutherland). Stu isn't amused
or daunted in the least by the claim, until the man on the
other end threatens his life if he walks away from the phone.
The publicist isn't immediately concerned by the threatafter
all, isn't it a given that publicists get these kinds of
threats from former disgruntled clients anyway?but
the realization of potential danger gradually sinks in after
a series of uncanny descriptions and statements, all which
seem to indicate that the mysterious caller is not only
a serial sniper who has been feared for a while in the city,
but is also just a short distance from the phone booth itself.
a man near the booth is shot. Nearby observers, unaware
of a sniper being near, insist that it was actually Stu
who did the shooting. Cops swarm the area. The police Captain
Ramey (Forest Whitaker) volunteers as the mouthpiece for
potential negotiations with the seemingly disoriented publicist.
But Stu, caught in both the cross-hairs of the law and this
serious sniper, knows how sticky the situation is; if he
leaves the phone, the sniper shoots, but if he doesn't,
he runs the risk of the S.W.A.T. team opening fire. How,
then, does he satisfy the radical demands of his enemy as
well as prove his innocence to cops without publicly giving
screenplay, written by Larry Cohen, isn't a terribly detailed
one (in fact, a lot of its ideas are very basic in structure),
but in ways, that's an admirableand essentialapproach.
Anyone can turn a concept like this into a two-hour action
picture with shoot-outs and explosions, but it takes real
gusto to simply make a movie in which a solitary situation
can grip an entire audience for the whole running time.
It's not an entirely psychological scenario, either; with
this approach, director Schumacher supplies the physical
presence of "Phone Booth" with the sense that
there is always a lot going on, either by using split screen
or by shooting at angles that allow multiple actions to
be implored in single frames. Background activity is as
crucial here as what goes on in the foreground. The movie
is short, perhaps more than most thrillers can successfully
operate, but somehow it knows just when to exist gracefully
from the screen, ending at just the right time before it
becomes tedious or too implausible to tolerate. Summer may
still a couple months away, but here is an exiting endeavor
that will no doubt set the benchmark for that movie season
higher than it has been in years.
© 2003, David Keyes, Cinemaphile.org.
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if the above review contains any spelling or grammar mistakes.