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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 EricDSnider

"This is why you should never go out in public, EVER."
4 stars

Maintaining his reputation as one of Hollywood’s most inconsistent directors, Joel Schumacher bounces back from last year’s “Bad Company” debacle with the excellent “Phone Booth,” a tight, suspenseful little drama whose moralistic streak is downplayed while its sweaty tension is played up.

Colin Farrell, who had his breakout role in Schumacher’s “Tigerland” (2000), plays Stu Shepard, a manipulative Manhattan publicist who, as one observer says, “puts the ‘ho’ in ‘show business.’” Bustling around mid-town at a break-neck pace, he is dogged by his eager young assistant Adam (Keith Nobbs), who has another cell phone call lined up for him as soon as he’s finished the one he’s on. Adam is learning the tricks of the trade, which, coincidentally, involve a lot of trickery and a lot of trading.

Lying is part of Stu’s job, but you get the feeling he became a publicist because he’s a good liar, not the other way around. He certainly enjoys fibbing enough to practice it at home, where his beautiful wife Kelly (Radha Mitchell) has no idea he’s been flirting with Pamela (Katie Holmes), a naive young actress who doesn’t know Stu is married.

Stu never uses his cell phone to call Pamela, instead visiting a phone booth -- one of the last of its kind, and scheduled for replacement -- at 53rd and 8th. He tells her it’s because it’s quieter, but the real reason is that Kelly sees his cell phone bill and might get suspicious. (That’s silly, of course. If it’s his business cell phone, why would his wife examine the bill? And even if she did, wouldn’t there be a lot of numbers being called regularly -- clients and such -- and not just Pamela’s? And couldn’t Pamela BE a client?)

After completing one such phone booth visit, the pay phone rings and, instinctively -- no one can resist a ringing phone -- Stu picks it up. The voice of Kiefer Sutherland tells him if he hangs up, he will shoot him. The caller is perched somewhere above the site with a high-powered rifle. To demonstrate, he obliterates a street vendor’s toy robot mere inches from Stu’s foot.

Thus begins the stand-off, shot in real time (just like Sutherland’s TV show, “24”) and soon involving the police and news cameras, thanks to an uncooperative pimp being picked off by the sniper, a crime blamed on the altogether gun-less Stu. But if Stu tells the police what really happened, or if he hangs up the phone, he’s a dead man.

Schumacher, working from Larry Cohen’s fat-free script, keeps the pace moving rapidly in what is essentially a one-act story. He doesn’t have much to say about the joys and pitfalls of 21st-century convenience, but he at least identifies them. At one point, Stu is on the phone with both Kelly and the caller while a band of hookers harasses him from outside the booth, everyone talking at once in a fever pitch of modern-life insanity. And we realize it’s not too different from having someone on the phone and a salesman at the door while the kids holler for snacks and your husband wants to know where his shirt is.

Note also the intrusiveness and prevalance of video cameras. Kelly and Pamela both learn of Stu’s standoff by seeing it on TV, and the police (led by Forest Whitaker) acknowledge that the presence of tourists with camcorders is what’s keeping them from just shooting Stu and getting it over with.

Farrell’s performance is key, as he is on the screen almost every second. He is charismatic enough to be likable, and slimy enough as a publicist to be compelling, and he’s almost convincing in morphing his Irish brogue into a New York accent. Schumacher favorite Sutherland -- this is his fourth film with the director -- uses only his voice, but it’s a distinctive, unsettlingly calm one.

Though it heads down the road previously trod by “Seven” and other films in which psychos find sinners and punish them, “Phone Booth” abandons that idea without fully developing it. As such, there is not as much satisfaction over the resolution as there ought to be, and I’m not certain the final outcome is actually possible, as I think it requires the caller to have been in two places at once

But no matter. It fully exploits the tense possibilities of the situation, very nicely providing popcorn thrills in the process. I, for one, will never answer a pay phone again.

link directly to this review at
originally posted: 07/05/03 17:20:41
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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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