Directed by: Joel Schumacher
“Ain’t live a bitch (bitch) a fucked up bitch (bitch)
A fucked up sore with a fucked up stitch
A fucked up head is a fucked up shame
Swingin’ on my nuts is a fucked up game
Jealousy fillin’ up a fucked up mind
It’s real fucked up like a fucked up crime
If I say fuck, 2 more times
That’s 46 fucks in this fucked up rhyme”
– ‘Hot Dog’ Limp Bizkit
There is a lot of profanity in ‘Phone Booth’; the f-bomb is dropped with alarming regularity, in fact it is uttered one hundred and forty three times. . This recalls the early noughties American cultural influence of Generation X which was emphatically soundtracked by Nu Metal – a genre of music that was aggressive, ignorant and the first cultural expression of modern supressed masculinity. The worry was that ‘Phone Booth’ would be a dumb thriller; thankfully it proves to be anything but.
Colin Farrell’s character Stu Sheppard is Generation X’er. We see him walking along the street brashly with his lackey, fielding calls, making deals, he’s a hotshot publicist who fancies himself to be ‘the shit’. Stu is currently having an affair with Pam (Katie Holmes) and calls her from a phone box in a rough part of New York. Whilst on the phone to Pam a pizza delivery guy tries to deliver him a delicious pizza, after telling the man to Foxtrot Oscar and ending the call to Pam, the phone rings. Stu picks up the receiver and finds himself in the sights of a sniper.
The Sniper selects his targets and punishes them for their wrongful deeds. In Stu’s case he has been cheating on his wife Kelly (Radha Mitchell). Stu is instructed to confess to Kelly that he has been cheating, and admit to Pam that he is in fact married. Set in real time, the tension dramatically escalates when a pimp attempts to remove Stu from the phone box (I’m sorry but I’m not writing phone booth aside from referring to the film’s title) and he is picked off by The Sniper. This causes the fuzz to turn up in great numbers, cordoning off the whole street.
Going back to the start, the film’s opening sequence is hilariously dated; it is remarkable to think how much mobile phone technology has developed over the last decade, and this development has almost caused phone boxes to become extinct. Any film that involves mobile technology must instantly be seen as a historical comment on the dark ages. ‘Cellular’, the 2004 ode to the inadequacy of mobile phone batteries has equally not aged very well.
The film showcases the acting talent of Colin Farrell, who can be relied upon to pull off the good looking redeemable arsehole role, as he has done to aplomb in ‘In Bruges’ and ‘Crazy Heart’. Given that his nemesis remains faceless in the movie until the very end, he is able to hold the film together by convincing playing a man marked for death and arguably worse than that – public humiliation.
‘Phone Booth’ is tightly directed by Joel Schumacher, who is able to make a movie that is boldly Hitchcockian. New York is zoomed in on, and made claustrophobic, and we feel right with Stu in the confined space of the phone box, agonizing as The Sniper’s trigger finger gets itchier.