Colin Farrell continues to gain momentum as he teams up with the director that basically started his career a few years ago, in Phone Booth, a short and to-the-point thriller that, despite some flaws, works relatively well.
Joel Schumacher hasn't had a good film in years, ever since he single-handedly destroyed the Batman franchise - that is, except for a limited release film in 2000 called Tigerland. The Vietnam war movie not only reestablished Schumacher as a legitimate director, but also introduced us to his "find" that he claimed would become the next big actor in Hollywood. That find was Colin Farrell, a young, handsome Scot who could act extraordinarily well.
While Farrell has yet to establish himself as a true box office draw, his fame is rising and his success is becoming known. He co-starred with Tom Cruise in Minority Report. He starred in The Recruit earlier this year, which opened at number one and can be considered a so-so success (partially due to the fact that Al Pacino was in it). He also had a big role in the big screen adaptation of Daredevil. So, he is becoming more popular, but he has yet to show what he is really capable of, and that he can carry a movie on his own.
Enter Phone Booth. Farrell stars as Stu, a New York publicist that talks faster than he thinks and thinks only about his reputation. Basically, he's an asshole. The role was originally going to go to Jim Carrey or Will Smith, but finally wound up in the hands of Farrell, who was probably only too happy to work with the director that essentially made him what he is today. Well, not quite, but it sounds good, doesn't it?
Anyway, Stu gets off his cell phone for a few minutes every day to make a call from a phone booth in New York City to a romantic interest of his (Katie Holmes), so that his wife won't see the number on his bills. Unfortunately, someone else has his number. A man who seems to know everything about him wants him to reveal all of his sins to the world, especially to the two women in his life, and if Stu doesn't, or if he hangs up, he will die by a sniper bullet. The sniper (Kiefer Sutherland) kills another man in the street and in a matter of minutes the police are there, thinking that Stu is the killer. If Stu doesn't do what the sniper says, he will die. Unfortunately, some of the things that Stu has to do may prompt the police to fire first.
Phone Booth is a slick and intriguing thriller that works well in the 80 minutes that has been allocated for it. For a movie filmed entirely on one street corner, it has incredible range as Joel Schumacher taps all of his resources. It is thrilling, suspenseful and at times amusing.
Farrell is excellent as the lead character; this is probably his best performance to date. In the span of 80 minutes, we get to see a man so confident in himself break down to nearly nothing as his life is shattered on national television. He is convincing and entertaining.
Unfortunately, the movie has a few flaws, all of which add up to only five minutes of screen time. The movie begins and ends horribly.
For whatever reason, Joel Schumacher decided to open his film with what probably will be considered the cheesiest introduction this year. We start in space, zoom in on a satellite, and then zap down to a circuit board in Manhattan. We are then presented with a ludicrous narration from some guy who tells us how many phone calls are made in the city each day, and how many people use cell phones. The narrator then tells us the history of the phone booth, as if it actually matters. Not only does it sound cheesy, none of the information given to us, the audience, matters at all! The opening scene is absolutely God-awful.
Then, for the next 74 minutes, Phone Booth kicks into high gear, engaging the audience just like it should, keeping us on the edge of our seats.
Then, it ends in the most cliche way possible. The "twist" ending, if you can call it that, is so predictable and disappointing I had to squirm in my seat. What happens has been done in so many movies that it is just tiring to see, and Schumacher doesn't even do it well. What is even more frustrating, though, is that Stu doesn't even realize what is going on until it is too late, even though it should have been so blatantly obvious to him.
The vast majority of Phone Booth is excellent and original, but there are a few major flaws at the two ends of the movie that keep it from being anything more than just a decent thriller. Had Schumacher eliminated the opening scene and revamped the last minute, I would be going back to see it again. Nevertheless, Phone Booth is a fun thriller with a good premise and great acting.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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