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Phone Booth
2002 - R - 81 Mins.
Director: Joel Schumacher
Producer: David Zucker, Gil Netter, Jerry Zucker
Written By: Larry Cohen
Starring: Colin Farrell, Kiefer Sutherland, Katie Holmes, Radha Mitchell, Forest Whittaker
Review by: John Ulmer
   

Mind if I call collect?
You're walking down a busy street. You pass a phone booth. The phone starts to ring. Do you pick it up? It must be part of the human psyche, but it seems that there is just something that makes us want to pick up that phone. We do.

The same thing happens to New York City publicist Stuart Shephard, when he thinks nothing of picking up a phone on a Downtown street. On the other end is an unnerving voice that tells Stu not to hang up the phone. Stu soon realizes that the man--whoever he is and wherever he is--has a rifle. A sniper rifle.

The Caller (Kiefer Sutherland) tells Stu that his lack of honesty and inhumanity has made him the target for this extortionist plot. If Stu hangs up the phone, he is dead. If Stu tells anyone who is on the other end of the phone, he is dead. The Caller wants Stu to confess his sins, which includes telling his wife why he uses a payphone every day instead of his cell phone.

The reason is because Stu has been having a fling with a wannabe actress. The actress has no idea Stu's married. But when the Caller forces Stu to tell his wife the truth on television, everyone knows. But the Caller still won't let Stu go. He's never going to. Stu will be killed before the day is over.

If the cops surrounding the place don't do something about it very soon.

"Phone Booth" is brought to us by Joel Schumacher, a man many hate yet many adore. He is the man responsible for the previous two "Batman" installments. Many claim him of ruining a series, when, in fact, the series was ruined by the first sequel. Joel Schumacher is too heavy on the darks in his "Batman" films, and his directorial efforts can be very bad. But he also brought us the wonderful character breakdown story "Falling Down," a film I have been quoted as saying is one of the best films of 1993. He also brought us the Brat Pack film "St. Elmo's Fire," the other Kiefer Sutherland film "The Lost Boys," and, among others, the tragic "Bad Company" and "8MM." But "Phone Booth" has some of the attributes of all those films. It has some "Falling Down" in it, some "Bad Company" in it (shudder), some "Lost Boys" in it, and yes, even some "Batman & Robin" in it. But it's on the same level as "Falling Down," i.e. it's a very watchable, if somewhat repetitive thriller.

My first impression upon seeing previews for "Phone Booth" was that I thought it had some real potential. Given the right dialogue and director, a boring situation can be turned into an intense one. Take, for instance, the scene where Stu is being commanded by the Caller to take a hidden handgun from the phone booth and wave it at the cops. We don't know how he's going to get out of it. But then when he does, we think to ourselves, "Why didn't I think of that?" I like thrillers that make a situation seem inevitible, then suddenly solve the problem.

Colin Farrell sports a good New York City accent, and Kiefer Sutherland sports a good Willem Dafoe voice. He's creepy, strange, and thanks to the film's technique of Hitchcockian suspense, we don't see him. At least for most of the film.

(Spoilers ahead)

The ending is a two-bit surprise. It's not just one twist, it's two. When the first twist was revealed, I thought it was the solution to the film, and it fit together more than a film like "Red Dragon" where you know the killer's going to come back. But then there's another twist. It's amazing, chilling, and eerie. And when the credits started rolling, my heart was still pounding. And even though some people will think this movie is tremendous and others will think it is ridiculous, it kept me on the edge of my seat and rarely let me down. Give it a chance.

And next time you walk down a street, think twice before picking up that ringing phone.
 
Movie Guru Rating
An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater.
  4 out of 5 stars

 
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