Saturday, October 30, 2021

Movie Reviews: Phone Booth

Phone Booth
directed by Joel Schumacher
This is another older film that is as much a noirish morality play as action/thriller movie. Like some aspects of the biblical Satan, the film's bad guy is an accuser, a prosecutor. 
He's someone who will reveal your sins, venial or otherwise, and make you confront them, pay for them, and maybe transcend them. He might be helping you (painfully) to reach a more enlightened stage of life.
Or he could just be a sicko who enjoys humiliation, violence, and pain. So YMMV on that. The story mostly takes place in or around the titular phone booth but I didn't find this claustrophobic or boring. The late director kept things moving.
Stu Shepard (Colin Farrell, whose native Irish accent occasionally pokes through an attempt at Bronxese) is a publicist who likes to think that he's going big places. 
Stu spends more time keeping up appearances than he does providing value to his C-list clients. But if his clients don't figure this out before the check clears, then Stu is happy to take their money.
Stu may or may not be committing adultery with the young rookie actress Pam (
Katie Holmes). If they haven't done the do yet it's not from lack of trying on Stu's part. Stu, who is married to Kelly (Radha Mitchell), calls Pam daily from the same phone booth (wouldn't want her number showing up on his cell phone records where Kelly can see it). 
Stu boasts to Pam about his "success", flatters her, and tries to get her to, well you know. After Stu completes this call, the phone rings. Thinking it might be Pam, Stu answers the phone.
It's not Pam. The caller (Kiefer Sutherland) tells Stu that he knows all of Stu's dirty deeds. Stu can't leave the phone booth. 
The caller demands that Stu confess his bad behavior to Pam and Kelly. 
Stu thinks this is a crank call until the caller demonstrates that he can see Stu by describing Stu's clothes and accurately shooting a suppressed rifle round near the booth. Any more disobedience or backtalk from Stu and the caller will kill Stu and maybe Pam and Kelly for good measure. Stu's choice. 
When a pimp and his stable of prostitutes try to eject Stu from "their" phone booth, the caller shoots and kills the pimp. 
Everyone thinks Stu did it. The police appear, led by Captain Ramey (Forest Whitaker) and attempt to make Stu get off the phone and leave the phone booth.
The caller won't let Stu do that; the caller finds great amusement in making Stu insult the police and his wife Kelly, who has seen the ruckus on TV and rushed to the scene. 
Ramey knows something isn't right and decides to handle things differently. Stu has to think at light speed to survive. 
The film is shot in real time. The premise is a minor insult to the viewer's intelligence when you consider it but at just 80 minutes this film doesn't overstay its welcome. Stu is not initially (and perhaps never) a sympathetic character but he does change throughout the film. The caller provides an excellent example of a villain who is quite polite and equally as maleficent.
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