He may have copped some flack for sullying the Batman franchise and conceding to the unpleasantness of some real duds in recent times, but Director Joel Schumacher is slowly showing signs of an extreme emancipation. And After the terrific Tigerland, he’s back with the incredible – not to mention long-delayed – “Phone Booth”.
In the works for years – both Will Smith and Jim Carrey were attached at one time – and ultimately falling into the hands of Schumacher, who insisted his Tigerland discovery, Colin Farrell, star. Originally scheduled to be released late last year, “Phone Booth” was ultimately postponed (not like another delay could really matter at that point after all the stops and starts it had experienced) when Americans were faced with the terrifying reality of a real sniper on the loose scenario. Fair enough.
But finally, one of the most long-winded films ever to go into production (and take just as long to come out of it) is unleashed.
Farrell plays Stu Shepard, a typically sleazy publicist suddenly thrust into an affecting nightmare that’ll change his outlook on life and arrogant behavior ad infinitum.
Immediately after using a phone box to call his floozy (Katie Holmes), the phone rings. He answers. On the other end of the line is a man (Kiefer Sutherland), who claims to have a rifle pointed at his head from a nearby window – and commands him not to hang up.
So who is this guy and why does he want to scare the wits out of Shepard? That you don’t find much about, but what you do find out about is why he’s picked Shepard to play liberator.
It sounds like something you may have seen before, but the truth of the matter is, you haven’t. From Schumacher’s imaginative choices in camera-movement to the gob smacking performances of Farrell (not to mention Sutherland), this is a film that is laid out polished, speedy and complete with earnest intensity.
Watching a slick-dick like Stu Shepard suddenly crumble into a ball of hopelessness – as the cops look on not knowing whether he’s a mad-man about to crack, and a sniper sitting contentedly atop an undisclosed window – is part of the movie’s enjoyment.
Surprisingly, the film clocks in at just under an hour and a half. But it’s edited sharply and it plays out just as long as it needs. It spends little time on exposition, instead quickly getting into the thrust of the movie. For a film like this, it’s advantageous, grabbing the audience almost immediately after the opening credits.
Here’s hoping Joel Schumacher can leave the rotten tomatoes behind for a while, and concentrate on the solid material he’s obviously still got in him.