Tuesday, April 08, 2003

Phone Booth (IMDB) (Netflix)
Nothing good ever came from answering a public phone; it's a no-good-deed-goes-unpunished phenomenon. Colin Farrell does just that, however, and he's going to have a very bad day, provided by Kiefer Sutherland, the voice on the other end. A public relations flack of the lowest order, Farrell covets other women and manipulates clients, media types and employees with equal disdain. Sutherland is a wrathful avenger who also can play the game, and he's got Farrell in his sights—literally—as his next morality remediation project.

This flick is a delayed showcase for Farrell, 9/11 having made the idea of a Manhattan street being terrorized a little too painful. He proves here that he can act his way out of a phone booth (sorry), if only the length of the receiver cord (apparently constraints do indeed set you free). We only get to hear Sutherland, who uses those deep, voiceover-friendly tones to menace Farrell mercilessly toward humiliation and possible redemption. In addition to the taut, streamlined plot, there are decent-but-unmemorable supporting performances by Forest Whitaker as the unusually perceptive police captain, Rahda Mitchell as the wife and Katie Holmes as the covetee, and some bad writing for the "lets just shoot him" role. Given the narrow focus of the piece, the crisp 80-minute run time is both wise and appreciated, and perhaps the start of a well-needed trend.