This week:
Phone Booth

Filthy says:
"Hang up already.

Once you get past the grassfuckers giving us another valuable lesson in morality, Phone Booth is a great idea for a twenty-minute movie. The problem is it's 80 minutes, and 60 minutes are pointless, contrived filler.

Phone Booth is the story of an asshole publicist (Colin Farrell) who has crushed dozens of people on his way up. We know he's an asshole because he's so damn whiny, but also because he uses a cell phone. In fact, the movie has a little tirade at the beginning about cell phones. You'll get no argument from me about that shit. Those damn phones are just a way for boring people to steal time from others. People call me on their cell phone because they're sitting in the airport and too fucking stupid to entertain themselves. They're so self-centered they think I'm sitting at home thinking I have nothing better to do. I do: I'm gluing leaves on the dog.

Now that I think about it, I've never heard someone take orders over a cell phone. Every time some jackass puts it to his ear, suddenly he's the boss, making big decisions and pushing people around. And he does it loud enough so everyone around can hear what a fucking big shot he is.

But Phone Booth isn't about cell phones. Not directly. It's just about one of the millions of assholes who has one. Apparently Farrell's wife, who is portrayed as a devoted, loving and kindly saint, checks his cell phone bill to see whom he called. It's one of dozens of lazy contrivances used to pad this fucker out to 80 minutes. Anyway, because she checks his bill (do cell phone bills list every number you call), he uses a phone booth to call a young lady he wants to screw. While in the booth, Farrell becomes the target of a sniper. As long as he stays on the phone and does what he's told, the sniper won't kill him. If he hangs up or disobeys, he's dead. We're supposed to wonder who the sniper is, how he knows Farrell, what he wants and if Farrell can negotiate his escape. And I did, for about twenty minutes. Then I spent sixty more thinking, "Man, that is one phony-ass looking Manhattan set," as the story generated bogus and uninteresting drama, including a "twist" ending as predictable as the winner of a Tampa Bay Devil Rays' game.

Ultimately, if I wanted to see a guy crap his pants in a phone booth for eighty minutes, we could just lock Worm in the one at the Tavern.

Like I said, Phone Booth is a clever idea for a twenty-minute movie. But there's no money in that, so Hollywood gladly padded this thing more than the bras at a high school prom. The plot's as bloated and gassy as the customers of a Country Buffet. In one subplot, Farrell is accused of killing a pimp who approaches the phone booth. For that to be believable, every person in New York would have to be not just hysterical (as they are), but retarded to the point of drooling and wearing helmets. That's when over-emotive character actor Forrest Whitaker shows up. He's a cop who, it's vaguely suggested, has to prove something by negotiating Farrell's surrender. In an unnecessary twist, he butts head with a tough-talking hot shot, at least until that subplot is dropped like a blue baby in a crack house. Whitaker is supposed to be smart, but it's that sort of smart perceived through the eyes of an idiot. He figures out what any of us would have an hour earlier. In the world of Phone Booth, however, he's relatively smart.

But here's what really put the bug up my ass. Farrell is set up as an asshole so he can be redeemed. Usually, an asshole is redeemed by saving other people. Not here; the only guy he saves is himself, and who the fuck cares about that? At the beginning, Farrell is the kind of guy who flaunts the rules, steps on people and crushes egos. By the end, he is simply reduced to the level that I've lived my whole life at; one of disappointment and shame. The movie's big moment is when Farrell breaks down. The fa┴ade of slickness crumbles and he reveals that deep down inside he feels empty, like a failure, and he's a coward.

Hell, is that all it takes to be a hero? I used to do that almost every fucking night between beers five and six. Then by beer nine, I'd believe I was invincible and would challenge the Harelip to a wrestling match. The problem is that after a while, I started saying it between beers four and five. Then three and four. And now I pretty much know I'm worthless as soon as I wake up, that the Harelip can put the smackdown on me, and I don't mention it so much anymore. Sure, declaring you're a failure is cathartic, but only if there's someone there to say "No, you're not." When those people aren't around, though, it just feels lousy.

The world isn't any better off whether Farrell becomes another one of the common folk or whether he got shot twenty minutes in. And I sure as hell ain't rooting for more assholes to celebrate their humility.

Farrell does what he can without a pretty sweaty, itchy role. It's all twitching, shouting and sweating. That gets old pretty fast unless you have a fetish for Tourettes porn. Whitaker is terrible, as usual, and nobody else gets enough screen time to matter. The set is intentionally claustrophobic, but you'd think since everything happens in one location they'd have tried harder to make it look like modern New York. The fever pitch of the movie is elevated by the presence of lots and lots of TV crews. This is supposed to imply the situation's importance to us, but all it really does is confirm that TV news spends way too much fucking time on sensational but meaningless stories.

In all, Phone Both is a lot of hot air and a little bit of idea. Two Fingers.

Want to tell Filthy Something?


Filthy's Reading
James Ledbetter - Starving to Death on $200 Million

Listening to
Stephen Malkmus- Pig Lib



Jeffrey K. Howard of ABC

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In The Core "There are enough thrills to last movie-goers a lifetime! A must see movie. Director John Amiel comes away with the most billiant film of its kind. The special effects are astonishing! A vibrant and exciting movie."


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