|You might recall Fox studios decided to hold "Phone Booth" out of its fall lineup last year because it was scheduled for release when the Washington D.C. sniper was still at large. Now that the Iraq War is in full swing, looks like it's OK to release it. Go figure.
Directed by Joel Schumacher (Batman Forever), "Phone Booth's" premise is one of those storylines that probably seemed like a good idea at the time it was pitched, and turned into a bad idea during production (which took all of 10 days).
The conversation between the scriptwriter and studio suits must have went
something like this:
Scriptwriter Guy: "Hey, I got a great idea for a film."
Studio Suit: "Let's hear it."
Scriptwriter Guy: "There's this slick, fast-talking, two-timing PR flack named Stu Shepard (Colin Farrell) who ends up in the cross hairs of a sniper (Kiefer Sutherland) while running his smack inside a Manhattan phone booth."
Studio Suit: "You tweaked my interest. Keep going."
Scriptwriter Guy: "Well, the sniper thinks of himself as some kind of deity or self-appointed vigilante who's been following Stu for weeks. The sniper discovers that Stu calls his mistress (Katie Holmes) same time, everyday from a pay phone at 53rd and 8th Ave., because Stu's wife (Radha Mitchell) checks his cell phone records. The sniper calls the phone booth while Stu is taking to his girlfriend and demands Stu call his wife to confess he's cheating or he'll shoot him."
Studio Suit: "Sounds good."
Scriptwriter Guy: "Of course Stu thinks it's a joke until the sniper kills a bystander near the phone booth. And because the sniper uses a silencer, the cops think Stu shot the poor slob."
Studio Suit: "Then what?"
Scriptwriter Guy: "The cops arrive and order Stu to drop his weapon and leave the phone booth. The sniper tells Stu if he hangs up or says he's being held hostage, he'll shoot both Stu and his wife."
Studio Suit: "Wow! So how does he get out of it and save the day?"
Scriptwriter Guy: "Well, you see. That's just it. I don't know. We'll make something up."
Which is exactly how "Phone Booth" tracks and plays out. The first hour is riveting, engaging and intense. However, the film stalls in the middle and its end seems tacked on and predicable. In all fairness there is a plot twist towards the end, but it comes too little and too late for the audience to care.
Forest Whitaker, who plays police Capt. Ramey, is totally wasted in this film. He's nothing more than a cardboard caricature. On the other hand, Kiefer Sutherland's almost invisible performance as the sniper is the glue which holds the film together. "Phone Booth" is a wrong number, which should have been disconnected.