Twentieth Century Fox's "Phone Booth" reached out and touched moviegoers this past weekend, taking the No. 1 spot in the box office. The film rang up $15 million in ticket sales over the weekend. "Phone Booth," which cost a modest $13 million, was pulled from its original Nov. 15 slot because of real-life sniper attacks throughout the Washington, D.C., area at the time.
Busy Irish actor Colin Farrell dialed up his third consecutive hit movie this year, as he's already topped the charts in February with "The Recruit" and "Daredevil." He portrays Stu Shepard, hyperactive media consultant who struts down Broadway in New York with his unpaid lackey handing him cellphone after cellphone, constantly negotiating and renegotiating contracts for his "favorite" clients. Stu definitely doesn't dazzle with his brilliance and purely gets by on baffling with his baloney.
He manages to ditch his sidekick long enough to go to his favorite phone booth, to which he ventures on a daily basis to call a special friend, Pam McFadden (Katie Holmes). Although he has a cellphone, he uses the payphone so his wife Kelly (Radha Mitchell) doesn't note the number on the phone bill.
After speaking with McFadden, the payphone rings and instinctively Stu answers it. The caller (Kiefer Sutherland) says to him, 'Isn't it funny? You hear a phone ringing and it could be anybody. But a ringing phone has to be answered, doesn't it?'
Much to Stu's chagrin, the phone call was meant for him, as the caller tells him that he's a serial killer with a rifle aimed directly at him. If Stu hangs up, he'll be shot dead in front of thousands of people. Drawing upon his negotiating ways, Stu attempts to figure out who the caller is, which only seems to irritate the individual. The caller has chosen Stu to confess to all his sins, namely the phone calls he's made to McFadden on a daily basis.
While the phone conversation continues, Felicia (Paula Jai Parker) and several of her street-walking friends wish to use their favorite booth as well. After Stu shows his reluctance in giving them their space, they call upon a tough guy to manually remove Stu, while Felicia taunts Stu by chiming 'you're gonna get your (expletive) kicked' over and over. Once the tough guy arrives, the caller gives Stu a taste of what he has to look forward to as he shoots the tough guy dead with a silencer.
This is when the movie really takes off, as crowds begin to move in, and law enforcement arrives in droves, led by Captain Ramey (Forest Whitaker). Ramey, upon hearing the testimony of the streetwalkers, is under the impression the situation is a shooting. However, once Kelly and Pam arrive on the scene, along with his interaction with Stu, he discovers there is more going on than meets the eye.
Director Joel Schumacher manages to keep the audience's attention on Stu, even when Stu's on the phone with others. Schumacher uses picture boxes surrounding Stu to show the environment at large, except for the caller. This technique is inventive and allows for everyone to keep in tune with every sequence that goes on beyond the booth.
As I've said in the previous reviews, this is the film that should've put Farrell in the limelight before "The Recruit" and "Daredevil." You could see from the trailers that ran for this movie back in the late fall that this was to be his breakout film. He is a talented actor who showed a lot of convincing intensity while dealing with the madman on the phone and the overwhelming environment surrounding him. It's hard to imagine how any of us would've handled this situation if it were thrust upon us.
"Phone Booth" by far is one of the best thrillers I've seen. It's original and unpredictable. It kept me on the edge of my seat, which put a lot of strain on the poor seat I was sitting on. With very few hang-ups, "Phone Booth" connects with three and a half out of four stars. You'll never answer a ringing payphone, the few that still exist, ever again.
"Phone Booth" is rated R for pervasive language and some violence. Running time: 1 hour, 20 minutes.