Screenwriter Larry Cohen reportedly dreamt up the idea for the thriller
Phone Booth as a project for Alfred Hitchcock to direct. Cohen never did get
to work with "the master of suspense," though, and his script languished for
decades before it was dusted off and handed to Joel Schumacher to helm.
Moving from working as an art director to commanding all activity behind the
scenes, he has directed everything from dreck (Batman and Robin) to
entertaining dramas (The Client, A Time to Kill) to the in-between (The Lost
Boys). He reinvigorated his flagging career with the taut Tigerland that
introduced moviegoers to up and comer Colin Farrell. So a reteaming between
Farrell and the director sounded promising.
Unfortunately, the stars weren't in alignment. Phone Booth proves
to be a dreary affair that is as outdated as the notion that the title objects
still exist on Manhattan streets. Where to begin to dissect Cohen's messy
screenplay? In building the story around an aggressive press agent who
would be targeted by a serial killer? (Farrell's Stu Shepard is no Sidney Falco.)
That said serial killer would not even factor into the police's reactions?
There's too much reliance on coincidence and technological breakthroughs
that would have been considered science fiction when Cohen first dreamed
up the story.
The film's initial release was postponed after a sniper terrorized the
citizens of the metropolitan Washington, DC area, and that alone points
up one of the crucial failing of the movie. The omniscient "caller" who terrorized
Farrell's publicist confesses to having already shot two other men, a pedophile
and a corrupt banker. Yet the police don't event connect the dots and
consider that Farrell could be a target. No, they accept the words of three
hysterical hookers who claim that Farrell's character pulled a gun and somehow
shot their pimp in the back while facing Stu.
Other than allowing perpetually rising star Farrell the chance to finally
carry a film on his own, there seems little reason for Phone Booth to have
been made. (He acquits himself almost without embarrassment: his Bronx
accent isn't terribly convincing.) The movie wastes the considerable talents
of Radha Mitchell (cast as Farrell's wife) and Katie Holmes (as a client Stuart
would like to bed), both of whom have little to do. Kiefer Sutherland lends
his recognizable vocals to the role of the sniper with a grudge.
All in all, though, the best thing that can be said for Phone Booth is
that it has a blessedly short running time.
MPAA Rating: R for pervasive language and some violence
Running time: 81 mins.
Viewed at the Loews 34th Street Cinema
|© 2005 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.