Tag Archives: Joel Schumacher

Joel Schumacher’s Phone Booth 


“Isn’t it funny? You hear a phone ring and it could be anybody. But a ringing phone has to be answered, doesn’t it? Doesn’t it?”

So snarls Kiefer Sutherland’s mysterious telephone terrorist to a petrified Colin Farrell in Joel Schumacher’s Phone Booth,

a taut, entertaining and oh so slightly heavy handed single location thriller that brings home the bacon, albeit messily spilling some grease along the way. Farrell is a hotshot businessman who steps into a phone booth (remember those?) one day, which serendipitously happens to also be the favourite haunt for sniper slinging whackjob Sutherland, who plays sadistic mind games, extorts the poor guy and digs up his darkest secrets, all while keeping him firmly in the crosshairs of his high powered rifle. The cops, led by a stoic Forest Whitaker, are perplexed at first and eventually drawn into this monster’s web too, as Farrell’s life begins to unravel at the whims of this unseen harasser, and the audience gets to see just how far either will go to resolve or escalate the situation. In this day and age there’d never be a scenario like this, the obvious reason being the extinction of phone-booths, but in the era of social media tech giants there’s just too much information and reaction time available for a situation this intimate to play out to the end. These days this nightmare would take the form of account hacking, an equally terrifying prospect, but a far less lucrative idea for a film. Now, we never really see Sutherland but for a few bleary frames, and he probably just recorded his dialogue from a cushy studio in jammies plastered with the 24 logo, but none of that takes away any of the lupine, icy calm malevolence from his vocal work here, and we believe in the ability of this man to freeze someone in their tracks, not only with a gun but with the power of verbal intonation as well. Farrell uses atypical caged animal intensity to ramp up the tension, and the other players, including Rhada Mitchell as his wife, Jared Leto and a very young looking Katie Holmes do fine by their roles. It’s a little glossy, a little too Hollywood if you know what I mean, but it’s a well oiled thriller nonetheless, with Sutherland’s shrouded, edgy persona being the highlight. 

-Nate Hill

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Joel Schumacher’s Falling Down


Everyone’s had the moment where they’re at the absolute end of their rope and feel like taking drastic or violent action against whatever is grinding your gears. Whether it’s a hot day in horrendous rush hour traffic, a particularly irritating lineup at Starbucks or an especially dense customer service worker, you just feel like saying ‘fuck it’, and decimating the place with anything you can lay your hands on. In Joel Schumacher’s Falling Down, Michael Douglas does just that on a sweltering LA summer day. His character, who remains nameless save for the moniker ‘D-Fens’, is a business man on his way home who just… snaps. Throwing a tantrum on the LA overpass, he quickly loses it, arms himself with a high velocity shotgun and proceeds to vet out every mundane annoyance, pet peeve and irksome scenario he can find. Whether it’s brutal catharsis he’s looking for, a cure for the doldrums of daily life or simply raging against that emptiness we all feel deep down, he keeps his reasons to himself, and let’s every other aspect of his character run wild. Holding up a fast food joint because they stopped serving breakfast five minutes too early, massacring homeless punks who foolishly harass him, his crusade sprawls across the valley and beyond, a righteous purge of monotonous, infuriating trivial concerns that soon has the attention of LA’s finest in the form of veteran Detective Robert Duvall and his crass, obnoxious lieutenant (Raymond J. Barry). It’s also revealed that Douglas’s personal life leading up to his break was rocky at best, with a job going downhill and hints of violence towards his wife and daughter. Quite drastic is the meltdown though, but it’s not quite a character study, he’s almost used more to pick away at the decays in society, a tool for exposing tears in the cloth we take for granted every day. His story is kind of like when you load up Grand Theft Auto on your console and completely ignore the missions in favour of a personalized war on anything that moves. His war happens to be against those little nagging inconveniences that seem like no biggie until they add up and you just go postal. It’s darkly funny stuff, but quite harrowing when you look at the big picture and the actual damage he’s doing to the city. Douglas is courageous here, it takes reckless abandon to go for a role like this, and he owns it in crew cut, well dressed fashion, a costume choice that absurdly clashes with the big metal cannon he totes. The film never takes sides either, recognizing both the bizarre consumerist nightmare we wade through everyday and it’s ability to dampen your spirit as well as the sickening extremes he goes to, challenging you to walk a line and look at both sides. Hard hitting stuff. 

-Nate Hill

Veronica Guerin: A Review by Nate Hill 

I can remember seeing Joel Schumacher’s Veronica Guerin when I was first allowed to start checking out R rated, more intense fare. Being far more impressionable that the desensitized veteran you see before you today, I had a royal emotional gut punch coming that I wasn’t even prepared for. I didn’t know what it was about or what I would see, all I knew was I loved watching movies and I was going to devour each and every one I could get my hands on. Well, it tells the true and very tragic story of Veronica Guerin, an incredibly fearless Irish journalist who almost singlehandedly waged war on the drug trade back in 1996. It’s a suicidal mission that involves hassling very dangerous people, putting her and her family’s lives in jeopardy and overturning stones that lead to nothing but trouble. But she won’t back down for a second, and Blanchett finds the noble belligerence in her. Now anyone who knows the story also knows that later in life she was assassinated, by order of the very same drug lord she was trying to take down, John Gilligan (Gerard McSorley). I feel like it isn’t really a spoiler and should be spoken of in a review, as it’s a huge beat and the essential part of the film. Poke the hornet’s nest and you’re liable to get stung, it’s just a shame that no one on her side could have done more to protect her and prevent the outcome, but when you have one woman crusading against both evil and casually corrupt indifference then I suppose she’s on her own anyway. “” is a chilling monster, an absolute sociopathic maniac who will go to any lengths of cruelty and darkness to keep his empire, and McSorley will give you shudders with his portrayal. Ciaran Hinds is great as sleazy and slightly conflicted John Traynor, an underworld informant who fed Veronica information and played a big part in her story. Colin Farrell shows up in an odd and completely random cameo, and watch for Brenda Fricker too. The end of the film and the events surrounding her death are intoned with a haunting musical montage, and I dare you not to burst into to tears or be swept away and deeply affected by Schumacher’s tender direction, the cast’s work and the sheer tragedy of it all. There’s another film about Guerin called When The Sky Falls with Joan Allen, and it’s worth a look, but this is the real deal, going to great pains to show the personal nature of Veronica’s quest, how much it meant to her, the sickness of a nation infected with drug addiction and corruption, and the game changing power which one human being can have over it all, even if they must sacrifice their life for it. Powerful stuff.

A Time To Kill: A Review by Nate Hill 

Ahh, the courtroom drama. Or, in Joel Schumacher’s A Time To Kill’s case, the fired up courtroom scorcher. A massive team of actors gather together here to tell the hot blooded tale of one African American man on trial for a brutal murder that is seen by many as justified, but to the prosecutor working the case is just another statistic that will help him vault over the pole to his next suit & tie victory. It’s based on a book by John Grisham, and Schumacher also adapted his story The Client, with admirable but less energetic results. This is one my favourite courtroom films, mainly due to the feverish energy of the American South that thrums beneath events like a heart ready to beat out of its chest. Every character has a mad glint in their eye and an epic film of sweat drenching them, and it’s easy to see why when you examine the high stakes, hot tempered powder keg of a trial they are involved in. Samuel L. Jackson is brilliant as Carl Lee, a simple African man accused of mercilessly gunning down two cracker asses (one of which is a grimy Kiefer Sutherland). These two punks are responsible for the rape and prolonged brutalization of Carl’s twelve year old daughter. A righteous knee jerk reaction for anyone, right? Try convincing a jury in the South of that. Conflict flares up faster than the fire adorning the crosses left on lawns by the arriving KKK, and soon the pressure is on to find the perfect prosecutor and defender for his case. Young upstart Jake Brigans (Matthew McConaughey) is picked to defend, facing off against a seasoned and annoyingly smug prick played by Kevin Spacey. Jake is blessed with the ingenuity and intuition of a law clerk (Sandra Bullock, excellent) and the sagely patronage of a veteran lawman played by a salty Donald Sutherland. It’s a tricky case though, with tempers and racial tension running high and a near constant air of danger for people on both sides of the table. Lee stands by his choice and boils in righteous fury that doesn’t quell the hurt once it’s simmered down, something which Jackson achingly imparts. Jake is swept up in the spectacle of it all, until his relationship with his wife (Ashley Judd) and finally his very life are at stake. Bullock brings the sanity of the big city to this backwater set melodrama and gives some of the best work of the film. Morality is tentatively explored, even though it’s clear as day that Lee was completely justified in his actions, and the outcome of the trial should reflect this. That sentiment is right there with the film’s title. But does it? You’ll have to watch and see. The epic cast lineup also includes work from Oliver Platt, Brenda Fricker, Kurtwood Smith, Charles S. Dutton, Patrick McGoohan, Nicky Katt, Beth Grant, Anthony Heald, Octavia Spencer, M. Emmett Walsh and a moving Chris Cooper in a small role. It’s a long film, but it sustains its energy and pace for the duration, with McConaughey’s refusal to buck the horse and throw the trial a key asset in letting us feel the hurt of a community torn inside out in one act of flagrant evil. It’s up to him and his crew not to right that wrong (realism dictates that it’s too late), but to give a modicum of solace to those further endangered by the very same evil. A winner.