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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 Stephen Groenewegen

2 stars

Phone Booth is a morally dubious thriller about an uptight sniper who coerces a common heel into accounting for his selfishness. Ostensibly a battle of wits, it holds your attention more by pumping your adrenaline with the threat of imminent violence than engaging the intellect.

Stu Shepard (Colin Farrell) is a New York publicist on the rise who happily lies and inveigles to get his clients - and himself - attention. ďThe first step to being famous is being noticedĒ, he tells Pam (Katie Holmes), a wet-round-the-ears aspiring actress that Stu desperately wants to bed. Striding down Manhattanís west side, Stu stops to make a phone call at one of the few remaining glassed-in booths in New York. Conveniently for the mad sniper taking aim across the road, Stu phones Pam from this location at the same time every day so his wife Kelly (Radha Mitchell) wonít see the calls on his mobile bill.

The sniper (voiced by Kiefer Sutherland) has decided that Stu has deceived and cheated once too often and deserves to be psychologically tormented and then killed. The sniper employs the same modus operandi he recently used to dispatch a corrupt business executive and a pedophile (presumably both men also telephoned mistresses from a phone booth at the same time every day). The sniper rings Stu after he speaks to Pam and tells him that if he hangs up - or tries to leave the phone booth - heís dead.

The inherent claustrophobia of being trapped in a glass booth was what kindled screenwriter Larry Cohenís original idea. Then why dilute it with the interminable time taken to get Stu into the booth and the sniper on the line? Why does director Joel Schumacher further dissipate the claustrophobia with multiple cameras, video inserts to other characters and locations, and a large supporting cast? Schumacher has a penchant for gaudiness and flashy visual clutter, but it turns out that the large crowd of extras is part of the sniperís plan. The surrounding police, reporters and onlookers (including Stuís wife and potential girlfriend) form the public audience for Stuís televised confession of bastardry.

Itís the thought that counts, apparently, since our sniper doesnít wait for Stu to actually commit adultery. When you consider that Stuís chief crime is imagining another woman in bed, itís hard not to dismiss Phone Booth as puritanical claptrap. Does harmless sexual fantasy justify a sniperís bullet? Hardly. Also nonsensical is that Stu is punished for pretending to be someone heís not. Itís just not acceptable for someone born in the Bronx to don a Dolce and Gabbana suit and work in Manhattan (look out Jenny from the Block!). Cohen would argue that this is the sniperís logic, not his, but Stu must still undergo ritual humiliation to expiate his sins before a captive audience (thatís you and me, folks, as well as all those movie extras).

What gives Phone Booth more credibility than it deserves is Colin Farrellís undeniable star presence, and the support he gets from Radha Mitchell as his confused wife. She behaves exactly as youíd expect someone in her bewildering situation to act. Farrell makes Stu more of a regular guy than the script probably intended, and his charisma is crucial in keeping us engaged. Forest Whitaker, playing a gentle giant of a cop, and Katie Holmes have been here before.

Sutherlandís voice isnít even modulated to suggest someone on the other end of a phone line. Instead, presumably, itís the omniscient voice of God far above in a building off 53rd street. Which would be fine if the clever sniper didnít start lousing up, making stupid mistakes for the sake of advancing the plot.

Worse, Phone Booth ends without providing sufficient explanation of who the assailant is or giving some idea of his background. Is he a religious nut, a hypocritical prude or something a bit more imaginative? What really enraged him so much about Stu - surely the average Joe has no contact with publicists and would be barely aware of their existence? Is the sniper a sexually inhibited, morally conservative movie critic?! Without more in the way of motivation, thereís no payoff at the end, only an unsatisfactory, ďso what?Ē. Which is a lousy way to walk out of a thriller.

Cohenís script knocked around Hollywood so long that phone booths were virtually obsolete in New York by the time this movie got made. Phone Booth hinges on no one being able to walk past a ringing phone without answering it. In a world of daily communication bombardment, where we screen telephone calls and battle to block unwanted email and SMS advertising, does that premise still ring true for you?

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originally posted: 05/08/03 13:42:52
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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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