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PHONEBOOTH - 2002
20th Century Fox
Ratings: USA: R
"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?"
In the city of New York, there are over 20 million people. More than half
that number live in Manhattan. There are enough active personal telephones to supply every one of those people regardless of income or age with their own telephone. Of those numbers, there are over 12 million active personal
phones in the range of cellphones, text messengers, and mobile computers
that can access the phone lines. With all of this personal communication,
there remain over 250,000 active pay phones in New York City. And they
handle nearly eight million phone calls a day. Nearly all of them are
wall or kiosk phones that accept credit cards or phone cards and few are
changed over to the latest tech until someone does damage to them, making
it cost effective to replace them.
On this street, in a side area of Manhattan, stands the last phone booth.
The old technology. It doesn't take credit or phone cards, only change,
making it the last wholly anonymous phone line in the city. You can call
from here to anywhere and no one will know who you are. The local phone
company is planning to remove it and replace it with a kiosk by the end of this week.
Stu Shepard (Colin Farrell: MINORITY REPORT, DAREDEVIL) is a new Yorker on the move, in that he has no office except the sky. His self appointed
job is as a publicist for nobodies. Like any publicist, his job is to
make somebodies out of nobodies. He keeps moving, walking down the streets of New
York. Moving toward his next appointment and away from his last one. He
uses two cell phones simultaneously. One for his secretary Adam (Keith
Nobbs), who handles his calls and carries around a PDA to keep
track of everything, and a second cell phone to actually talk to people.
This allows him to run his business as if he was a professional with an
office and staff. None of which he owns. What he does have is a nice Italian
suit. He also wears an expensive $2,000 dollar watch, or at least it looks
like one. But he needs these accoutrements to impress upon people that he is a man on the move and a success.
And the only way a publicist can be a success is by handling successful clients.
"The first step to being noticed is being mentioned."
So everyday is a non-stop busy business of taking calls, holding calls, calling
people back, and making deals. Stu makes deals with people who have no
respect or regard for him. His value is in who he represents. So like
every publicist he builds his clients up. It's a thankless job. His clients
are second and third tier wannabe nobodies with grande delusions, no respect,
and short tempers. The various magazines that Stu wants to carry his clients
don't think much of him or his stable unless he drops hints that some
other high-powered magazine wants what Stu has. In this world of celebrity
manufacture, Stu's clients are only important if somebody else wants them.
It quickly becomes apparent that Stu is a nobody with little education and
a fast mouth and quicker brain. He hurts no one and he's playing the game.
Even better, he is just starting to get a handle on how to win the game.
He gives his secretary some money to get some good clothes and heads to the
last phone booth in New York to make a private call.
Because Stu is a creature of habit. He goes to that same phone booth at the same
time every day.
Someone has noticed Stu. They've noticed his habit. And once he is in that phone
booth, at that precise moment, in that precise place, he is under the microscope.
He makes a phone call to a non client of his. A girl named Pam (Katie
Holmes: DISTURBING BEHAVIOR,
TEACHING MRS. TINGLE, THE GIFT)
who impresses him because she seems to be impressed with him. She thinks
he is special and that makes Stu feel special. So he calls her from a
phone booth where no one can trace his call. If he can seduce her, it
would be his very first affair with a groupie, and isn't that a sign of success?
Pam is timid, however and Stu decides not to push it. Pam requires slow convincing
not fast talking and that's out of Stu's league right now. He hangs up
and a pizza man (Dell Yount) starts knocking on the door. He tells Stu that he has his pizza. Stu doesn't know what
he's talking about. Pizza delivery to a phone booth? The delivery man
is insistent, Stu gets angry and finally cusses him out. The delivery
man leaves, worriedly looking up at the sky.
Stu gathers his stuff in the booth and starts to leave. The phone rings. Stu
decides to answer it.
The voice on the other end tells him that he should have taken the pizza because
he is going to need his strength. Stu doesn't get it. The man plays word
games with him and Stu is about to hang up on the idiot. Then the caller
starts telling Stu personal information: Information that no stranger
would know about Stuart Shepard. He knows that Stu has a wife and that
her name is Kelly (Radha Mitchell: PITCH
BLACK), The caller toys with Stuart some more until Stu is
once again ready to leave. Then the caller tells Stu that he has a high
powered rifle aimed at him with a high powered scope. Stu tests himi and
at least the man has a high powered scope. Stu tests him further and a
red laser dot appears on his chest, and crawls up to his head.
For the remainder of PHONE BOOTH, Stu is trapped. Trapped by a man who obviously has enough wealth to spend
his time picking victims out of the vast sea of humans moving back and
forth through the city of New York. The caller can afford state of the
art encryption devices to keep his call from being traced. He can afford
expensive sniper equipment. And he can afford to randomly pick Stu out
of the masses and spend his days devoting attention to Stu and how
Stu runs his life. Stu is a poor kid from the Bronx who is trying to better
himself without preying on people or resorting to violent crime. And that
just sticks in the craw of the caller.
People who physically get too close to Stu get shot. In the excitement and fear
of the moment, bystanders think that Stu is the killer and the cops soon
have him surrounded. The cops call out the SWAT teams and everyone is
pointing to Stu in the phone booth as the killer. The SWAT team is on
edge. IF anyone fires a shot at all the first thing the police will do
is open fire on the phone booth with Stu inside. Stu knows this. So does the caller.
"By the time they realize you don't have a weapon and that it couldn't have
been you, I'll be long gone," The caller says.
The hidden caller may kill innocent people around Stu, but he finds Stu guilty
of being dismissive to his fellow man. Something the caller feels is inhuman.
So Stu must put himself back down to where he started and stay there. He
must never try to rise above his "station". But no matter what
Stu says or does, the caller might change his mind and change the rules.
Because the caller is a calm psychopath and this is his idea of fun. And
because he has convinced himself that he is good and Stu is evil, what
chance can Stu have against such twisted malevolence?
The movie runs, as you watch it, flawlessly. Director Joel Schumacher (THE
LOST BOYS, FLATLINERS, A TIME TO KILL, 8MM,
VERONICA GUERIN) has had his ups and downs as a director, but working
together with a main cast that he has successfully worked with in the
past seems to give assured confidence in this movie. The pace, which is
everything, moves with deft precision. In the script by legendary Larry
Cohen (Created the X-Files precursor movie, THE INVADERS in the 1960s.
The TV series that launched the whole idea of a vast government UFO consipracy,
DADDY'S GONE A-HUNTING, SCREAM BABY SCREAM, IT'S ALIVE, GOD TOLD ME TO,
FULL MOON HIGH, Q, THE STUFF, MANIAC COP, UNCLE SAM) there are few minor
plot holes, ommissions of logic in the actions of those present, but those
can also be explained away by the stress and exhaustion of the people
trapped in the moment.
I really enjoyed this movie. PHONE BOOTH crackles with rare energy and that
can be attributed to a triumverate of Forest Whitaker (TAG, BODY SNATCHERS, SPECIES, BATTLEFIELD EARTH, PANIC ROOM),
as Police officer Capt. Ramey. Under immediate high tension panic situations,
he has to decide if Stu is a threat, like witnesses say, or a victim.
Sutherland (STAND BY ME, THE
LOST BOYS, FLATLINERS, A FEW GOOD MEN, THE VANISHING [USA], EYE FOR
AN EYE, A TIME TO KILL, ARMITAGE III, DARK
CITY), as the Caller: Every movie goer knows that voice.
And last and best, Colin Farrell. Because Stu has to carry the movie nearly
as a one man act for the entire film (and for that reason, many other actors turned it down). Stu, in Colin's body, has to go from confident to defiant to broken and make it believable all within a single setting: The phone booth.
4 Shriek Girls
copyright 2002 E.C.McMullen Jr.
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Created the X-Files precursor television show,
in the 1960s (the star of that show, Roy Thinnes,
would later go on to be a re-occurring character in THE X-FILES).
The TV series that launched the whole idea of a vast government