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Overall Rating

Awesome: 37.57%
Worth A Look41.62%
Average: 3.47%
Pretty Bad: 10.4%
Total Crap: 6.94%

8 reviews, 125 user ratings

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Phone Booth
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by Erik Childress

"Dial 'F' & 'S' for Farrell, Sutherland and Schumacher"
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2003 SOUTH BY SOUTHWEST FILM FESTIVAL: If 2003 tells us that you can lose a man in 10 days, who says you can’t shoot a movie in the same period of time? Director Joel Schumacher doesn’t recommend it, but proves it can be done with the exhilarating Phone Booth, a movie that proves a number of things. (1) Colin Farrell is a born moviestar. (2) Kiefer Sutherland is one of the great presences in movies and television, even if he’s not on-screen. (3) There are still great original thrillers to be made by big studios. (4) Sifting through Schumacher’s spotty track record for his best works like Phone Booth are more than worth their wait in gold.

The publicist is a special breed of cat these days. All the ills of modern-day journalism can probably be attributed back to the profession used to manipulate ours. My colleagues and I can make full attestment to this. Fast workers, all looking out for the products (including humans) that they’re in charge of, manipulating the system to the n’th degree. To say there’s been spillover into how entertainment “journalists”, (also known as “gossip hounds” and “quote whores”) operate is an understatement that any public relations officer would sooner turn into an overstatement.

Farrell plays one of these cats. Stu Shepard is his name and talking is his game. He can walk down a crowded city street with only a cellphone and an unpaid intern to guide his way and he’s the master of his own universe. The opening scene depicts how good Stu is at his job and in a clever bit of Twilight Zone-like narration, we’re told that he’s about to become the final occupant of a scheduled-to-be-demolished phone booth. The last one remaining in New York City.

Conveniently in the “same booth at the same time every day”, the married Stu makes a special point to call Pam (Katie Holmes) the wannabe actress he wannabe sleeping with while removing the guilt of his wedding ring. When the phone rings back to him, the voice on the other end (Kiefer Sutherland) reveals how much he knows about this hotshot and wants him to understand something very clearly. Confess his sins or face the other end of a high-powered rifle that’s pointed directly at him.

This means never hanging up the phone, never revealing who he’s talking to and always complying with what he’s told to do. When the sniper takes out one body on the crowded street, the suspicion falls to Stu thanks to a group of loud-mouthed hookers. The police show up and a standoff begins that leaves the fast talker with few options in the bugged booth. Captain Ramey (Forest Whitaker) has no choice but to believe the witness account but is suspicious of the phone that never leaves Stu’s palm. When the media gets involved, it’s only a matter of time before both Pam and his wife, Kelly (Radha Mitchell) show up on the scene and become potential targets for the amused marksman.

The 10 days of work that translates into the short 81-minute running time couldn’t have worked out better. Stretching credibility is a task that befalls any action flick, but confining it to a singular space and breeding out the tension with some genuine sentiment is something few directors could have pulled off with the minimal camera tricks that Schumacher employs. We can only believe in the situation for a judicious amount of time before we become restless with further contrivances. The action has to be developed, but not TOO developed. How long can the sniper play games while cops, S.W.A.T. and cameras take position outside? How long can we possibly believe that Whitaker won’t figure out that Stu is the victim here? Or is he?

What exactly is the sniper trying to get Stu to cop to? Is it just his potential infidelity or something more hidden within his psyche? Whatever it is, we have to believe the intensity of their relationship and the Farrell/Sutherland pairing couldn’t be more perfect. Both of them are charming and evil in their respective ways. We have to loathe and like their ways in the “Hostage/Terrorist, Terrorist/Hostage” sense. Sutherland has only his voice to guide us through the madness and when it’s all over, you’ll find it hard to believe that the studio initially wouldn’t let Schumacher hire Sutherland despite their past successes on three previous films together. Thank God for “24”. Farrell has the tricky conception in going through a complete character arc in just over an hour and when he finally spills the guts that Sutherland wants to see with the sincerity in which he wants to hear, we believe every word of it. At least, we certainly want to. That’s what moviestars can do.

Phone Booth has enough nifty twists to keep turning the screws on the audience and more-than-enough humor to alleviate the gravity of the tension. It’s a tightly wound, old-fashioned (but unmarked) kind of thriller that represents the splendid entertainment worth our nine bucks. How old-fashioned is it? Screenwriter Larry Cohen (“Q”) originally pitched the project to a little director by the name of Alfred Hitchcock. It would have been quite fascinating to see what the master of suspense would have done with the idea, but he would certainly admit that Schumacher, Farrell and Sutherland have done him proud.

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originally posted: 03/13/03 19:19:59
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 SXSW Film Festival. For more in the 2003 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

9/13/17 morris campbell tense entertaing thriller 4 stars
12/21/14 Dane R. Youssef An enthralling claustrophobic thriller. Almost makes one happy phone booths are extinct. 5 stars
11/06/11 Chris. Everyone I know hates it--not sure why... 4 stars
2/20/11 Ark Confession scene was killer. Farell trying to hedge , killer ordering him to tell! 4 stars
6/01/10 User Name The menacing voice of Kiefer Sutherland makes this thriller two hours of palpable tension. 3 stars
4/29/10 brian Thank you Mr. Hitchcock for making films like this possible. 4 stars
1/17/10 Movie Hater! Hollywood selling names with this crap! Wish I never saw it! I am tainted! Weak as shit! 1 stars
10/28/09 the dork knight Defies logic at a few points, but a slick and imaginative thriller. Farrell pwns. 5 stars
10/19/08 Samantha Pruitt pretty good, very suspenseful and interesting! 4 stars
8/27/08 Shaun Wallner Bloody Awesome!!! 5 stars
11/19/07 R.W.Welch Pushes the gimmick to the max, but very good work by Farrell. B- 4 stars
3/31/07 action movie fan teriffic suspense-farrel trapped in phone booth wrongly accused 5 stars
3/07/07 dprodigy Kiefer's voice is COMIN TO KILL MEEEEEEE! 4 stars
1/10/07 johnnyfog Bad ending (like most thrillers), but probably one of Farell's best performances. Wow. 4 stars
11/16/06 David Pollastrini not great, not terrible 4 stars
9/07/06 Booksworm Kiefer Sutherland has the scariest voice I've heard since Andy Serkis in Lord of the Rings! 4 stars
3/29/06 Anthony Feor Can somebody tell me why this movie was made 1 stars
1/18/06 JM Synth Alot of fun... if you can get past the first 10 minutes 4 stars
12/26/05 CZ By far the worst and most forgettable film I've ever watched 1 stars
11/09/05 Stan L tense and entertaining, if short 4 stars
10/28/05 tatum One of Schumacher's strongest films 5 stars
10/27/05 chris a great movie i loved it and congradulations to collin farrell for a great performance 5 stars
10/13/05 Wisamane colin farrell is a shitty actor, reuind the movie 1 stars
10/11/05 CONSTANTINE AWESOME, ONE OF Kiefer Suhterland's BEST FILMS EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
8/22/05 ES Makes me want pizza everytime I see it, worth a look for anyone who enjoys a thriller 4 stars
4/19/05 The Sorrow A CHILLER-THRILLER-KILLER of a movie...!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
4/09/05 Melissa B Fantastic chiller. Colin Farrell plays his part very well. 5 stars
3/11/05 The Sorrow Very hypnotic... Better than most thrillers today! 5 stars
2/23/05 Richard Simmons colin farrell is hott, and im not even gay! 2 stars
2/16/05 yeya regalado this movie wus da clean!!! 5 stars
1/22/05 Mr. Durden This movie is really good. At the very least, give it a rent. 5 stars
12/09/04 Kristina Williams Damn good. Kiefer's voice gives me goosiebumpies 5 stars
11/23/04 Steve Newman 90 minutes of great entertainment 4 stars
10/24/04 Fenstwhip Shiggins Worst pisser movie ever. Terrorist turns out to be avenging angel [read Devil actually].BS! 1 stars
9/27/04 Archanist_101 KIEFER SUTHERLAND fucking RULE_z !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
9/05/04 Stefan Halka What do you know - that hack Larry Cohen actually wrote a quality film. 4 stars
9/04/04 jeff good movie, dont like colin farrell thogh, thinks he is all that, kinda annoyin 4 stars
9/03/04 Daveman Brings nothing new to genre. Recommended only if you're REALLY bored. 2 stars
7/25/04 Pure RAGE... There should be a "Phone BOOTH: Re-DIAL" 5 stars
7/23/04 booklover Excellent storyline and production, but I would have liked it better with less profanity. 4 stars
5/16/04 Sean An excellent trio of characters, a frighteningly real premise, and superior dialogue. 5 stars
4/29/04 Sutherland Sutherland time wo,wo 5 stars
4/17/04 BaztarD_101 Kiefer Sutherland... WOW! 5 stars
4/10/04 jert yeah Farrel is good, nice tension and great black boobies!! 4 stars
4/07/04 Sig wow 5 stars
4/02/04 Geo78665 Good, but with this premise, it should've been ever better. 4 stars
3/27/04 pAY dAY great film 5 stars
3/25/04 SrM This movie rulz 5 stars
3/22/04 Keifer Sutherland_RULZ You know why I'm rating this... Sutherland RULES! 5 stars
3/20/04 Jack-pyschO-Lantern This really does deserve a sequeal or should be praised as a classic 5 stars
3/18/04 Umbrella Corporation. Keifer Sutherland's finest hour... !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
3/17/04 PAYNE_KillerZ Morale vigilantes... FINALLY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
2/24/04 LIAM JACKSON Does for phone booths what Psycho did for showers. great film. 5 stars
2/21/04 Denise Duspiva Kiefer is great 4 stars
1/28/04 Dennis Himenez Manipulative, preposterous, morality play disguised as a thriller. 1 stars
1/23/04 Chloe Brody Quite good - I have to admit, I was on the edge of my seat for a lot of it. 4 stars
1/03/04 A F It's quite a stretch. I'm not buying it. 2 stars
12/21/03 Littlepurch WICKED! Thought it would be boring but it was GR8!!! 5 stars
12/18/03 MIND OF A LUNATIC Superb 5 stars
11/28/03 TNT Too tiny personal story,the sniper has no reality. 1 stars
11/14/03 Mark Lyons I thought this was a totally hot movie omg 5 stars
10/12/03 Monster W. Kung Interesting concept and some good scenes, but implausibility and cliches bring it down. 3 stars
8/13/03 Nancy295 Riveting movie - never checked my watch - Colin is hot! 4 stars
8/08/03 dado excellent movie 5 stars
8/04/03 Shane Myers!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! KEITH SUTHERLAND'S VOICE RULES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
7/25/03 Double G Good plot, but the whole movie takes place in a phone booth but it keeps you watching 3 stars
7/24/03 Ingo Sure it's entertaining, but a little unidimensional... 4 stars
7/23/03 May Q. Horney You need a scumbag shooting at you for neglecting your spouse? I don't think so!!! 1 stars
7/17/03 anitanium best 5 stars
7/12/03 Joe COOL 5 stars
7/11/03 Troy Butler Very well done, ... at less than 90 minutes, keeps you entertained for the whole movie!!! 4 stars
7/07/03 Terrance Rogers It was good. The 2 funny parts is when he tried to steal the chips and when he p'd on hisse 5 stars
6/26/03 Laurian Diaconescu This shows how a decent movie can be done without giving priority to dumb special effects. 4 stars
6/22/03 John Bale Taut claustrophobic well acted thriller, with a strong ending. 4 stars
6/11/03 FLiK It was a great stand-off movie...Second only to Dog Day Afternoon 5 stars
6/05/03 Shadaan Felfeli bludy entertaining ! 4 stars
5/21/03 Kate Superb movie 5 stars
5/21/03 Nancy N. pretty silly, and farrell sounded like an Irishman trying to do a NY accent (oh, wait...) 2 stars
5/12/03 Jack Bourbon Wonder how they fill 2 hours with a guy in a phone booth? With a guy in a phone booth. 3 stars
5/11/03 Mr. Hat (I'm Back, Mo'fos!!!) People, think past the trailer and see this excellent, enthralling movie! 5 stars
5/08/03 George Jung Poor Opening. Poor Ending. This is pure rental crap. 3 stars
5/03/03 Jackson62 Farrel is the star but Sutherland owns the movie. BEST MOVIE (so far) THIS YEAR! 5 stars
4/28/03 Oh no I'm so sorry I saw this movie 1 stars
4/27/03 michaelb14 Great Movie, Keifer Sutherland was creepy as hell as usual 5 stars
4/23/03 Andrew Carden Holmes Just Slows Things Down. Otherwise, A Fun Little Action Thriller. 4 stars
4/23/03 George Jung This is a film with something to say...homoeroticism is good. 2 stars
4/23/03 Eric Ruprecht It was Awesome 5 stars
4/22/03 C Henderson Oscar Worthy Performance 5 stars
4/21/03 Edler Reminded me of Speed. Pretty good, nothing amazing 4 stars
4/20/03 Titus This is how movies should be. 5 stars
4/20/03 David Deo Absolutely amazing movie that keeps your brain and your bum on the edge. 5 stars
4/19/03 Jin This is a film with something to listen! 5 stars
4/18/03 654 PHAT 5 stars
4/16/03 Em Wow! Joel deserves top hounors 5 stars
4/14/03 poetchuck Interesting twists 4 stars
4/13/03 BSE Awesome 5 stars
4/12/03 kevron this movie was not all that entertaining, constant cliches got annoying. 3 stars
4/12/03 Siso The movie is well worth it...keeps you on the edge of your seat for all 80 mins of it. 5 stars
4/12/03 dill hole great 5 stars
4/12/03 Connie LOVED IT...Colin was the whole shooting match for me. 5 stars
4/11/03 Nancy Boy This booth was made 4 stalkin, that's just what I'll do, so TFB it's gonna be the end of u. 4 stars
4/09/03 Atanu Farrell is the most hyped incompetent actor after penelope cruz. yet just as annoying. 1 stars
4/09/03 Jiz Farrell did good, Sutherland ruled that shit, but the movie wasn't really anything special. 4 stars
4/08/03 Vince It was pretty good i guess. 4 stars
4/08/03 Rylz One of the best films in recent years 5 stars
4/08/03 bullit17 Schumacher is forgiven for killing Batman ... almost. Great performance by Farrell. 4 stars
4/07/03 Lin Rainey I love Colin Farrell and he can act. 5 stars
4/07/03 Collin Farrell I am ashamed at how this movie turned out... I apologize to all audience members. 1 stars
4/07/03 me agood film but not the best 4 stars
4/07/03 Angolmois Basically a one-man show, but Farrell can really act. Sutherland's voice acting is super... 4 stars
4/06/03 Annette Farrell and Sutherland are great. Until this move I didn't get the hype about Farrell. 4 stars
4/06/03 Not Retarded You must be a retard if you like this PIECE OF CRAP - worst movie of the year 1 stars
4/06/03 Large Farve White-nuckled it all the way through; Wow, what a great movie 5 stars
4/06/03 John Keating outstanding thriller 5 stars
4/06/03 Yo Mama! Wow, great movie! BTW - What happened the the FUCKING Awesome rating...I liked that better 5 stars
4/05/03 nick2k damn....hecka of a good movie! more katie wouldn't have KILLED you! i hate hookers. 5 stars
4/05/03 G Incredible. I could'n get off of my seat 5 stars
4/03/03 melanie wow 5 stars
4/03/03 Lin Rainey I could look at Colin Farrell all day long. He could read the phone book to me 4 stars
4/02/03 dill hole hot 5 stars
3/30/03 macxkle3 good movie; nail-biter 4 stars
3/27/03 joe its good and yes saying "tasty" does make one a flame.... 4 stars
3/20/03 David M Rosonowski Pretty good movie. I would recommend it to anyone. 4 stars
3/19/03 Kyle Fun movie. 4 stars
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  04-Apr-2003 (R)
  DVD: 01-Feb-2005



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