Brief Review: Phone Booth (2002)

Short and thoughtful is the order of the day in Phone Booth, an interesting morality tale from director Joel Schumacher.

Arrogant publicist, Stu Shepard (Colin Farrell), has built a career on lying and scheming. A perpetual wheeler-dealer plying his trade with just a cell phone and an obsequious assistant, Shepard pounds the pavements of New York, fast-talking into his omnipresent cell phone.

Full to the brim with self-importance, Shepard is the quintessential sleazy businessman. Despite having a phone glued to his ear, each day Stu slips away from his servile assistant to call his mistress, Pam (Katie Holmes), from a phone booth. In doing so he keeps his personal phone history clean so that his wife, Kelly (Radha Mitchell), won’t find out.

On this particular occasion, however, Stu answers the phone in the booth to a mysterious caller with a deep knowledge of his personal life. It transpires that the caller is an expert sniper who gives Stu an impossible ultimatum; confess his sins to the world or die.

It’s an intriguing concept that is explored satisfactorily by Joel Schumacher. A vibrant film that relies heavily on two things; Colin Farrell’s commanding performance and Kiefer Sutherland’s sinister voice as The Caller. Under Farrell’s careful control, Stu Shepard is whittled down from a thoroughly deplorable person into someone much less egotistical. Meanwhile Sutherland’s mostly vocal performance brings to life a gleefully sadistic sniper with a warped sense of right and wrong.

Rounding out the cast is Forest Whitaker’s Captain Ramey, a seasoned negotiator with an alarming willingness to open up to strangers. It’s a little disappointing to see such a fine actor in yet another besuited police officer role, but Whitaker’s talent vastly improves what is essentially a clichéd character.

Phone Booth is a brief but entertaining yarn worthy of your time, mostly due to Farrell’s excellent performance.

3-stars

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