[MOVIE REVIEW]Press ‘1’ for thrills, press ‘2’ for the truthLow budget. One week screenplay writing. Ten-day movie shooting. One location: a phone booth.
The screenwriter Larry Cohen (“Maniac Cop,” “Black Caesar”) has said he was always eager to write a story using a phone as the subject, as it is such an integral part of modern life. By choosing a phone booth, he ensured a tight, claustrophobic environment.
Into the environment steps Stu Shepard (Colin Farrell), an arrogant, clever publicist, the kind of guy who always wearing an expensive suit and treats the average Joe with contempt (that is, when he considers the average Joe at all).
He is always on the go, and always on one of his several mobile phones. But with one exception ― when it is time to call Pamela (Katie Holmes), he always uses a pay phone.
Pamela is an aspiring actress who hopes that Stu can give her her big break and turn her into a star. But what Pamela doesn’t know is that Stu is married. He only uses pay phones to call her so that he can keep his distance from her (and so she cannot call him at any inopportune moment).
One day, after calling Pamela, the pay phone he just used starts to ring. Reflectively, he answers the phone, only to find he is in a trap.
The caller commands Stu not to hang up the phone or walk out of the booth; if Stu disobeys, the caller promises to kill him.
Of course, Stu doesn’t believe the mysterious caller, so the man on the other end of the phone shoots someone near Stu. Stu quickly realizes that the caller is dead serious.
Thus begins a cat-and-mouse game, as the unknown man on the phone does all he can to make Stu’s life miserable. He knows a lot about Stu, and all he says he wants is for Stu to tell the truth.
With a shot man lying dead on the ground, soon the police get involved, lead by Captain Ramey (Forest Whitaker). Before his ordeal is over, the other people in Stu’s lie-filled life will also come into play.
The story unfolds very fast, following not just Stu’s story, but several others involved, too.
The director Joel Schumacher (“Falling Down”) is in particular adept at using the confined, phone-booth setting to make you feel like you are there, too.
But this is not just some thriller; “Phone Booth” contains both fun and deep emotions. The quick-witted sniper can be as funny as he is deadly, even in dreadful moments.
The ending, however, is not the best, with a resolution that cannot but seem like a bit of a letdown. But up until that fateful resolution, the tension between Stu and the telemarketer-from-hell remains tight and involving.
The movie’s lesson: Always tell the truth. Trite, to be sure. But who knows? Maybe “Phone Booth” will make you think the next time you see a lonely pay phone ringing away.
Thriller / English
by Park Sung-ha