Effectual call

Culture | Phone Booth (rated R for pervasive bad language and some violence) has an intriguing premise

Issue: "Iraq: After the rout," April 26, 2003

Phone Booth (rated R for pervasive bad language and some violence) has an intriguing premise: After spending about 10 minutes to set up the story, the remainder of this 80-minute film takes place in and around a Manhattan sidewalk phone booth. The booth's occupant, a slimy New York publicist, is pinned down by an unseen sniper high in a building above him-who's also at the other end of the pay phone's line.

A "high concept" film like this has the potential to be a real standout or to really fall flat, but director Joel Schumacher (Bad Company, Batman and Robin) manages to find a no-frills middle ground. The story is kept simple enough to minimize plot holes and gaps in logic, and the pacing through most of the film is suitably tense.

What develops between the publicist (Colin Farrell) and the sniper (voiced by Kiefer Sutherland) is meant to be a sort of morality play. Without giving away too much, it becomes evident that Mr. Farrell's character has some sins for which he must atone, with the business end of the sniper's rifle acting as a source of very real moral encouragement.

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But aside from some confessions that are frantic (and very profane, as is much of the script), the moral component of Phone Booth is never fully developed. As a thriller, it's entertaining most of the way through. There isn't much violence, but strong bad language and frank discussions of adultery make this film unsuitable for family audiences. Phone Booth is definitely one of Mr. Schumacher's better films, but it's not as memorable as the concept might suggest. c -


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