has a problem with bad timing. It is a pretty suspenseful look at a
fast-talking publicist who is trapped in a phone booth by a mysterious
sniper who knows all about his life. This film was due to be released last
year, but it was shelved when the real life snipers were terrorizing
Maryland and Virginia. Well, apparently it has been deemed long enough to
slip Phone Booth
into the multiplexes. Still, the specter
of real life does loom over the proceedings. Its a shame, because there is
an interesting premise.
Colin Farrell is terrific as Stu, a self-absorbed
publicist, a huckster in a Brooks Brothers suit and a stylish cranberry
shirt. Stu is trying to bebop his way through life, using anyone he can,
dismissing anyone he cant use. He is self-involved, somewhat immoral and
desperate for approval. He stops in what we are told is the last phone
booth left in Manhattan to call a cute young ingénue (Katie Holmes) that he
is thinking of cheating on his wife with. When nothing comes of his
attempt, he starts to leave, but the pay phone rings. He actually picks it
up (the script says that no one can walk past a ringing phone even if they
know its not for them, but Ive always found the exact opposite to be the
) and is confronted by a mysterious voice that knows all about him, and
says that he will be killed if he hangs up the phone or leaves the booth.
To prove he is serious, he kills a strip club bouncer.
Now Stu is put in
the position of being surrounded by cops who believe he is a killer and
being unable to tell them what is really happening. A
Afternoon type of media circus explodes
outside the phone booth. This is a grabbing set-up. The film certainly
then again it would be hard to drag in a film that is an
astonishingly brief 80 minutes long.
The films setting actually works
toward sabotaging the film, though. After starting out with some vibrantly lifelike
scenes of New Yorks Times Square, which bustle with energy, the block where
most of the films action takes place is just too obviously a Hollywood back
lot, losing the vitality, the funkiness, the sense of life that exploded in
the first scenes. Now, I know the logistics of filming an entire film in
the middle of a street in Midtown would make it impossible, but that doesnt
change the fact that the film has lost the pulse of the city. In fact, the
movie seems a little unknowledgeable about New York City in general, or at
least it hopes the audience will be. For example, the early scenes show
Farrell walking south and east on 44th and
Broadway in real time. So how did he end up in a phone booth that the
narrator tells us is at 53rd Street and 8th
Avenue, over ten blocks in the opposite direction from where he was
But geography questions arent this films real problem. It is a
simple storyline flaw. In the end, the audience cant overcome the very
Why is the sniper doing this? What has Farrell really done
to deserve this kind of mental and physical torture? The excuses the
shooter gives just dont float. Stu is a publicist who lies to further his
clients careers? Im sorry, but hasnt the sniper ever met a publicist?
Is it because Stu is rude to people who cant help him? Okay, fine, dont
invite him to a dinner party, but I think this is a little extreme. Is it
because hes considering having an affair? How does that effect the sniper
in any way? You keep expecting for there to be more, a final shoe will fall
that will explain why this man has been chosen for such a trial by fire, but
it never comes. Without that payoff, it becomes a bit of a cynical
screenwriters trick. All of the suspense that was built up seems a bit of
a cheap tease.
©2003 PopEntertainment.com All rights reserved.
Posted: April 6, 2003.