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:: Phone Booth

A man is making a call at a phone booth and suddenly… it rings. What do you do? Do you pick up? Yes you do, although you don’t expect that it’s going to last eighty-one minutes on screen.

Stu Shepard (Hollywood “it” boy Colin Farrell) does just that, and what do you know, his life is literally on the line. Unable to hang up, “the caller” on the other end has a sniper rifle pointed at his head and unless he does what he’s told, he’ll get it. Exciting premise? The caller then forces Stu to contact his wife Kelly (Radha Mitchell) and admit that he has wanted to bed young actress Pamela (Katie Holmes) and confesses his other sins. Once the police are on the scene, after a pimp gets in the way and is murdered, he insults and berates the chief officer Ramey (Forest Whitaker) and claims that he is the one that has gone insane and will kill his own wife himself. After little investigation, Ramey finally realises that no, that isn’t a gun in Stu’s pocket, but a mobile phone and that the person on the other end of the call is, again literally “calling the shots.”

It isn’t until the final few moments when we realise that the clever caller has set up a decoy for the police. After we breathe a sigh of relief that this charade is over and done with, the real assailant passes Stu by and predictably gets away.

An interesting premise that unfortunately does not have enough material to sustain the mere eighty-one minutes on screen. More action and story was needed in order for this to occur. The fact that the whole story is set in one location is also very problematic especially when the premise hasn’t built up to an exciting climax when the main character is not engaging, and to be honest we could care less whether he lives or dies. We should either hate or sympathise with him and unfortunately we don’t. Is he really such a bad person just because he has thoughts of having sex with someone else other than his wife and he is a good liar in his job? Stu’s character (as well as the supporting cast) is fairly one-dimensional and contains no complexities and depth, as is Kiefer Sutherland’s bland, monotonous voice as “the caller.” The few confrontations with Ramey are also sloppy and run out of steam quickly especially when Stu has to resort to a bunch of silly insults about the stamina of his libido and size of his penis to get under his skin. These incidents demonstrate the severe limitations that placing all the action (or lack thereof) in one scene will do to a fairly interesting idea that is possibly more suited to an episode of The Sopranos that a mediocre Joel Schumacher film.

The incident that sets the ball rolling isn’t inciting enough and when we realise this fact it is too late. A supposed tale of “urban paranoia” and one man’s attempt at redemption, it is hard to actually state what it is that Stu does that needs redeeming. A very thin story that attempts to “borrow” several devices that have been achieved more successfully on 24 and unsuccessfully applied to screen. Using spilt screens and supposed “real time” (or so we are supposed to believe), there isn’t enough story and action to propel the viewer into that extreme state of tension that it tries so desperately hard to achieve.