Phone Booth

| April 5, 2003

We’ve all done it. A phone rings, we answer it. Sometimes we hear a public phone ring and our curiosity gets the better of us and we answer it. One day in Manhattan Stu Shepard did exactly that and it almost cost him his life. Phone Booth is the story of a man who is part publicist, part hustler and how he is gotten the better of by a mentally unbalanced sniper.
Every day, Sheppard (Colin Farrell from Minority Report, Tigerland, Daredevil) steps into a phone booth, takes off his wedding ring, and calls an aspiring actress (Katie Holmes as Pamela McFadden) he’s trying to make time with. Evidently his ways were noticed by a self proclaimed enforcer of morality (Kiefer Sutherland as The Caller) who decides to teach him a lesson. One day as soon as Sheppard gets off the phone with Holmes (The Gift, Dawson’s Creek–TV), he is rung back and told to call his wife and tell her he wants to cheat on her or there would be consequences. Those consequences come when Sutherland kills a neighborhood pimp who is trying to get Sheppard out of “his girls'” booth. The police are hot on the scene and all overly manicured fingernails are pointed at Sheppard.
With an audience of television cameras from every New York borough, Sheppard is forced to repent in front of both McFadden and his wife (Radha Mitchell from High Art). Will it get him out of the situation, that is the moment we wait for.
Phone Booth was delayed from its original release for almost 6 months after the sniper killings on the East coast of the United States in 2002. A good thing, too, because we do a lot of looking through the cross hairs of a rifle–but instead of thinking we are the target, we think, “Oh God, don’t shoot him now, I’ll see it from the killer’s perspective as if I did the shooting.”
The acting is wonderful. Farrell is as smooth as a morning lake. He goes from phone call to phone call with the grace of a swan. It’s great to see the idea of a grass roots publicist working not with an office but with at least two cell phones and an assistant who follows him around the streets of New York. Sutherland (Lost Boys, Flatliners, A Time to Kill, 24) is almost entirely done in voice over so you know he got as many takes as he wanted to get it right. The police negotiator is played by Forest Whitaker (Panic Room, Good Morning Vietnam) so you know that’s three great acting performances you’ll see.
Going in, my thought was that no one who uses a cell phone as much as Sheppard does in the trailer would use a phone booth, but that and all the other plot questions were handled very well. It’s so nice to see a movie that takes care of you that way. I give kudos to director Joel Schumacher (Tigerland, Lost Boys, Flatliners, A Time to Kill, Bad Company) for using actors he is familiar with to make a story come out well. He uses a split screen most effectively to show many faces and angles at once. Great editing helped keep you from getting dizzy!
This movie was enough for me to say “Hold my calls” for a few days.

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