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Phone Booth (2002)

  Directed by: Joel Schumacher
Written by: Larry Cohen
Starring: Colin Farrell, Katie Holmes, Radha Mitchell, Kiefer Sutherland, Forest Whitaker
Links: Phone Booth on the IMDb, Official site, Buy on DVD, Buy the Soundtrack, Buy on Video
Genre: Suspense/Horror/Thriller

This movie gets: 7.50 (2 ratings)
nofreelist.com Ranking: Ranked equal 81st of 187 movies (2 ratings minimum; see full chart)

"Focused" - a review by andy-j

Stu Shepard (Colin Farrell) is a bit of a cocky arsehole publicist, mucking around behind his wife's back, lying to clients, and generally acting like a prick. His world is changed when, one day, he answers a call from a public phone, and finds himself talking to a psychopath. The guy on the other end of the line has a rifle aimed at Stu, threatening to shoot him if he hangs up the phone. "The Caller" has taken it upon himself to punish Stu for his reasonably petty sins. Soon enough the police get word of the situation, and things start to become a whole lot more complicated for Stu when he realises that the cops aren't exactly on his side...

Phone Booth has a lot going for it. First and foremost is the excellent script that keeps you on the edge of your seat. By setting the majority of the film in a single location, the tension is heightened and the viewer's attention is completely focused. Director Joel Schumacher takes advantage of this and milks it for all it's worth - quickening the pace, backing off, and then bringing it all to the boil again - but never allowing the audience to fully relax. In many ways, Phone Booth reminded me a lot of Speed (1994) - the single location, the life-or-death situation, the psychopath, and the extremely tense and exciting feel maintained throughout.

Colin Farrell is totally believable in his role as Stu - he plays the prick the perfection (hmm, that could definitely be misinterpreted...) and evokes all the right emotions in the audience at all the right times (you'll go from thinking he's a bastard to not knowing what to think, to feeling sorry for him, which is exactly what is required to make it all work). Forest Whitaker, who plays police Captain Ramey, is also convincing as the chief negotiator who is obviously out of his depth, but determined to ensure that things don't end badly. Also impressive is Kiefer Sutherland, the Caller, who, despite not showing his face, commands a huge presence.

Phone Booth is great - it totally controls you, thanks to the great script, direction and acting. I compared it to Speed, but Phone Booth is far and away the superior film - it doesn't contain as much (stupid) action, it is more intelligent and has deeper characters, and an infinitely better ending. See it or I'll shoot!

andy-j gives this movie 8 out of 10.
Review created on Tue 20 Jan 2004

"Low-budget idea, big-budget film" - a review by mino

For some reason, I'd been looking forward to Phone Booth for an awfully long time. I first read about this treatment that had been doing the rounds in Hollywood some years ago: for some reason, the very idea of the movie appealed to me. A guy answers a payphone, and someone tells him that he's a sniper, and has a rifle trained on the booth: put the phone down or leave, and you'll be shot. Wow: what a great premise for a film.

From then, I kind of followed the movie along through its (rather drawn-out) production cycle: originally, excited about what looked like being a quality low-budget semi-indie film, then a bit of trepidation as a big studio got excited about it and decided to splash out. Then came worry as a big-name director (Joel Schumacher) got attached, and I thought the idea might get ‘diluted’ in some way. Frustration ensued when the movie got held up after the Washington sniper attacks, and then finally relief when it came out in cinemas and the reviews were largely good. Then, I kind of forgot about it, and only got around to seeing it over six months after it was released in Australia.

I'm glad I finally got around to seeing it: but somehow, I wish it had been a low-budget indie film. While the big money thrown at it hasn't totally ruined the film, there are just enough of those ‘Hollywood touches’ in there to make it kind of annoying. The ridiculously pretentious and ‘just because we can’ opening credits get the movie off to a bad start, as does the laughably heavy-handed way they have of making Stu (Colin Farrell) out to be a nasty person. The introduction of Farrell's character is so awfully overdone that, even though you're supposed to hate him, you almost end up liking him just because of the clumsy hatchet job they've done on him.

Also, given one of the great charms of this movie was the almost Alfred Hitchcockian challenge of making a movie set more or less entirely in a phone booth, one other thing stuck out as annoying: the special effects. No, I'm not kidding. They're only minor things, but the use of picture-in-picture effects was too cutesy, and merely distracted from what was happening: even worse, when the whole point of the movie is the mysterious sinister voice on the other end of the phone, and you get the excellently creepy Kiefer Sutherland to voice it, why oh why oh why dear God why would you use crappy echo and pitch-shifting effects on it? Why? Why? Why? Because you're an idiot, that's why.

Anyway, (fairly minor) annoyances aside, Phone Booth is fairly true to form. Unlike most so-called ‘thrillers’, the air crackles with tension (though not without slow patches), and the rather claustrophobic nature of the set serves to up the stress levels considerably. Farrell, who's never really stood out in my mind as a particularly fine actor, is not too bad at all, particularly toward the end of the movie. Kiefer Sutherland is great: being the key character in a movie without appearing on screen isn't an easy task, but he manages to get bring just the right amount of menace to the role without having it appear too pantomime-villian (which was a real risk, with him).

Based on a short film, Phone Booth is itself quite short: even so, parts of it seemed to drag a little — either they needed to bite the bullet and make a 65 or 70 minute movie, or they needed to expand on the ‘police work’ part of the plot, with Forest Whitaker, which I felt was a little bit rushed.

Anyway, it's kind of churlish to complain. Phone Booth isn't going to be remembered as one of the greatest movies of the 21st century, that's for sure, but you could do a lot worse if you're in the video shop looking for something to watch. If it had been made without the big stars, though, I can't help but think it would have been very good indeed.

mino gives this movie 7 out of 10.
Review created on Fri 16 Jan 2004

Movie review statistics

Number of reviews: 2
Average rating: 7.50
Lowest rating: 7 (by mino)
Highest rating: 8 (by andy-j)
 
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Reader comments

  1. Utter Crap!!!
    This is one of the worst movies I have ever seen. It's Plausibility is below zero.
    Please, don't waste time nor money watching it.

    Rating given: 1

    A comment from Tea-Jee on Mon 26 Feb 2007 07:37 #

Those who have commented give this movie: 1.00 (1 rating)

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