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The plot in a nutshell
Stu is a sleazy guy. He's in public relations, so I suppose that goes
without saying, but he wheels and deals and spins and lies and everyone
turns out happy. He wears Italian suits and expensive shoes, and is
overtly flirting with one of the more attractive young actresses looking for
his help in the business. And yes, he's married.
Every day he calls her from a
particular phone booth. The new girl, not his wife. And then one
day, after making his usual phone call, the phone rings and his life is
altered. Trapped in the phone booth by a sniper, unable to tell anyone
the exact nature of his predicament, he is forced to realize the folly of
his lies and confront them for all the world to see.
Relatively Spoiler Free Thoughts
Colin Farrell, starring as Stu Shepard, has a hell of a tough job
here. This is a story written entirely around him, and his reactions
to the situation. While there are other actors involved, most notably
Kiefer Sutherland as the voice of the sniper, they are all just background
to his character. Farrell has to carry the film fully on his
shoulders, and he does an excellent job.
That's not to ignore
Sutherland, who I think is one of the greatest under-rated actors working
today. He was the perfect choice for the sniper, although he was a
late replacement. And I can't talk about this film without mentioning
Joel Schumacher, perhaps my least favorite director of all time. It's
not because he's consistently bad, and I have enjoyed films like 8MM,
Falling Down and Flatliners. But he was the man to ruin the Batman
franchise with the final two God awful films, and I pray he never gets near
that license again. I've not yet forgiven him, but at least he does a
decent job here providing very solid tension during the first 20 minutes or
so. Unfortunately the air goes out of the film about the time the cops
show up, and after that it's pretty much standard fare.
This was a tough film to do,
considering the constrained location, heavy dependence on a single actor,
and difficulty in maintaining tension over a long period. Probably the
biggest weakness of the entire movie is the lack of real moral issues for
Stu. He's not really such a bad guy, and that means you never really
connect with the sniper's plan. Sure, Stu isn't Mother Teresa, but
other than doing his job - which he does pretty well - and cheating on his
wife in mind, but not body (yet), he's an average joe. Now I realize
that they did this to make him more identifiable to the viewer and allow you
to sympathize with his plight, but it takes all the bite out of the sniper's
Colin Farrell has to run the
full range of emotions, from incredulous to swaggering, from terrified to
lost. He's the big winner here, and after this film is definitely a
bankable star. The movie works best as a show piece for his acting,
but falls apart on story and intent.
Rating - Rent It
I wouldn't rush out to see this at the theater - save yourself a few bucks
and wait for the rental. It's worth seeing for Farrell's performance,
and to hear Sutherland's perfectly spooky voice. It also has a great
line that I'll be using to describe people climbing the corporate ladder -
"The higher the monkey climbs, the more of his ass you see."
Spoiler Laden Thoughts
There's some stuff here that is definitely spoiler material, so don't
read on if you haven't seen the film. Unless you don't mind knowing
plot points and resolutions in advance...
Most of the plot hangs together
fairly well. I thought that the shooting of the pimp made perfect
sense to set up Stu, and much more than the general shooting (with gun
blast) that we heard in the previews for the film. When I saw the
preview, I wondered how anyone could be stupid enough to think he'd shot
someone, but they handled that very well. The only big problem I had
with the plot was the resolution of the film, obvious as it was.
You knew from the start that
Sutherland's character would escape. I was also happy to see that we
didn't get a bunch of back story on the sniper - you know absolutely nothing
about him (remember, he even ends up saying he's not really even an actor)
by the time the movie ends, other than that he has in his mind this purpose
of killing off bad people. But the use of the pizza delivery guy
really left a big hole in the story.
As I recall - and I'll have to
see the film again on video to be sure - there was very little time between
when the pizza guy was at the phone booth, and when the sniper called Stu.
And yet in this time, he lured the delivery guy to the secondary room, kill
him, and get back to where ever he was actually shooting from.
Why do I think that wasn't
where the sniper was shooting from? Well, first he was too bright to
allow them to catch him that way. He'd already set up his dead
counterpart to be the fall guy, so why do that in the room he was actually
using? On top of that, we see Sutherland with the large suit case at
the end, obviously carrying his rifle, but the room with the dead pizza guy
in it also had a rifle on a tripod. They were making it pretty clear
that this location was separate, but they left very little time in there for
all this to happen.
What exactly were the drugs for
in the ambulance? That got Stu pretty loopy, with blurred vision and
all, and it seemed like they were giving him a general anesthetic
almost. Yet he'd only been shot with a rubber bullet - sure, it hurt,
but none of his injuries really made much sense for him to be drugged up in
the back of an ambulance.
Speaking of the rubber bullet,
that was well executed. They gave you a foreshadowing, showing you the
cop loading the gun with it, but didn't make it overly obvious. Not
too heavy handed, and it played with your emotions at the end.
The film hinted at some things
that it never really got into, like the previous death associated with the
cop character played by Forest Whitaker. I was never sure if that was
supposed to be connected - perhaps one of the previous sniper victims - or
just thrown in for a little short term tension between the cops. To be
effective it needed to be further explored, or never brought up in the first
Still, overall the plot holds
together pretty well. This isn't Academy Award writing, but the dialog
and pacing were well done. I've seen some reviewers seriously trashing
the film, and as much as I dislike Schumacher, he doesn't deserve it here.