Phone Booth (2003)


Phone Booth (2003)
Cast: Colin Farrell, Radha Mitchell, Katie Holmes, Forrest Whitaker, Kiefer Sutherland
Director: Joel Schumacher
Synopsis: “If you hang up, I will kill you” – not exactly what Farrell wanted to hear!


Over the years Joel Schumacher has earned a reputation as being a conveyor-belt filmmaker whose career matter consists almost entirely of style over substance. He is considered master of the “disposable”, shallow flick designed to “cash in” on its instant satisfaction factor – the Fast Food factor as it were.

This film is based on what some are calling a “high concept” –a film that attempts to recreate the tension of using “real time” as one of its techniques while another is to stage virtually all the action on what is effectively a single outdoor stage – a non descript phone booth on a sleazy, faceless street corner on 53rd and 8th on the West Side of Manhattan, in broad daylight. In the few minutes before Stu Shepherd picks up a fateful phone all that will change his life, the audience learns that the guy is a total jerk – A Fast talking, fly, lying, exploiting and cheating vermin of a human being with no scruples at all.

A slick dude on the make who will stoop to conquer and do whatever it takes to get a step ahead, even if it means double-crossing or stomping on his best friend. He hasn’t a single moment of his precious time to spare to any other lowly human being who doesn’t fit into his grand plan and speaks to people on the street as though they were a meaningless waste of space. Dressed in his shiny, obviously-designer suit and flash purple shirt, he struts around Manhattan like hot shit with an ego that is in danger of exploding.

A typical Jerry Springer invitee delivers him a pizza as he is making his daily call to his potential bit on the side Katie Holmes, an aspiring actress whom he hopes to exploit to the fullest. He badmouths the miserable Pizza delivery guy on whom Joel Schumacher’s camera lingers ever so slightly as he slouches off, visibly upset at being treated like a dog by the narcissistic Shepherd. Moments later the phone in the booth rings and Stu, almost instinctively, picks it up. Once Farrell picks up the phone he is entangled in the diabolical web of a demented psycho killer “If you hang up, I will kill you” who holds him hostage at gunpoint from an unseen vantage point, bent on making Stu pay for being the self-worshipping creep he is.

The film strains to maintain a grip on its audience and is remarkably successful in doing so, credit due to both Schumacher and Farrell for their hand in sustaining interest. That said, it isn’t particularly fascinating or particularly tense or brilliantly acted and the very end is as predictable as it is laughable. The film is no masterpiece yet it manages to entertain even if it is not in the least taxing on the brain cells. Interestingly the film was pulled from release earlier in the year while a real sniper went on a killing spree and held back for a few months.

Farrell, to be fair performs reasonably well even if his New York accent is decidedly dodgy. Radha Mitchell doesn’t have much scope and Katie Holmes even less but Forrest Whitaker as the obligatory Afro-American police chief turns in a very odd and unconvincing performance. High concept or not, this is essentially a very lightweight film that attempts to give itself some “weight” by tacking on an almost embarrassing “moral” heart-wrenching, almost tear-jerking confession right at the end. But even though Farrell manages to sob his way fairly convincingly through the confession scene, the shock ending, contrived like in the most brain-dead slasher movies puts everything back into perspective.

This is no more than a slick, reasonably acted, well put together but very average B-movie thriller that certainly won’t be winning any Awards for any one involved. It’s palatable and offers instant gratification of a most superficial, temporary nature but a few hours later it’s all but forgotten. If at all the film will be remembered for its interesting concept rather than for any other qualities it might or might not possess and Unlike almost all Hollywood major studio films, this movie was wrapped up in an almost record 10 days.