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29 October 2014
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15 Phone Booth (2003)

updated 14th April 2003
reviewer's rating
Three Stars
Reviewed by Nev Pierce


Director
Joel Schumacher
Writer
Larry Cohen
Stars
Colin Farrell
Forest Whitaker
Katie Holmes
Kiefer Sutherland
Radha Mitchell
Length
81 minutes
Distributor
20th Century Fox
Cinema
18th April 2003
Country
USA
Genres
Drama
Thriller
Web Links
Interview with Joel Schumacher

Read about other small-space big screen dramas on Collective

View the trailer (standard speed)

View the trailer (broadband speed)

Visit the official website


From the director of "Batman & Robin": one man, in a call box, for 80 minutes. Cinematic purgatory, right?

Well, shelve the cynicism and snide remarks, for Joel Schumacher is on target with "Phone Booth", an impressive genre entertainment - forgettable but gripping; slight but deadly.

The set-up is "high concept" gone stratospheric, an idea so simple it could be very clever or very stupid.

Smartmouth New York publicist Stu Shepard (Colin Farrell) uses a public phone to ring the object of his extramarital affections (Katie Holmes). There, he takes a call from a stranger who threatens that if he hangs up, he'll be shot.

As the tagline would have it, Stu's "life is on the line".

Can he talk his way clear of trouble? What does The Caller want? And when a passer-by is shot, can Stu persuade police captain Ramey (Forest Whitaker) he's not responsible?

Schumacher stacks up the stylistic tricks, keeping his camera flighty, flicking round the static situation, feeding off the fear of the protagonist. Veteran journeyman scripter Larry Cohen, meanwhile, mostly avoids or undercuts clichés - creating dialogue a little too bespoke to be believable, but amusing and angry nonetheless.

No amount of smoke and mirrors could compensate if the casting was off, however. Here, "Phone Booth" hits the bullseye. Farrell is phenomenal. Stu is an arrogant, amoral gadabout, who lies for a living. It's hard not to love him.

Being the centre of every scene and carrying a dislikable character could have crippled much more experienced actors. But the young Irishman is a charisma magnet - a natural with the screen charm of a Connery, Grant [Cary!], or Gibson.

You'll be glued to him even as the third act winds down and the action fizzles when it should fire. He fills the picture.

"Phone Booth" is far from flawless, but far from "Flawless", too. Worth a call.









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