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
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
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
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.
to tell Filthy Something?