Phone Booth

Dir: Joel Schumacher
Starring: Colin Farrell, Kiefer Sutherland, Forest Whitaker, Radha Mitchell

Although Larry Cohen's script had been kicking around for years (directors attached include Michael Bay and the Hughes Brothers; leads included Smith, Pitt, Gibson, Cage, Cruise and Carrey), the film was beaten to the punch. Made in 2000, events such as the Beltway snipers going ballistic before one planned release date, mean it now looks like a copy of Liberty Stands Still, which appeared on cable last July. In Liberty, Wesley Snipes plays a moralistic marksman who pins down his target (Linda Fiorentino) in the middle of a busy street. Here, it's Sutherland and Farrell: on the plus side, both actors are much more bankable than they were, with 24 - another real-time item - and Daredevil having raised their respective profiles several notches. Luckier still, Sutherland was a late replacement for Ron Eldard. Who he?

Certainly, it's contrived (phone booths now seem as retro as VHS), and Cohen's explanations don't always convince, e.g. why publicist Stu (Farrell) uses a payphone rather than one of his multiple mobiles. But it remains taut and tense, in part thanks to a 80-minute running time with next to no slack. The two leads are excellent, particularly Sutherland, whom you don't see until the very end of the film; he manages to make the sniper surprisingly sympathetic, helped by Stu being a lying scumbag. Schumacher just points the camera, and that's really all that's needed. Just as there are one-joke comedies, this is a one-idea thriller; it's a hell of an idea though.


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