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"Firewall" Movie Review

"Firewall" Flames Out Early On

By

Harrison Ford and Paul Bettany in

Harrison Ford and Paul Bettany in "Firewall."

© Warner Bros Pictures
“Firewall” tries a couple of new tricks and relies heavily on the use of modern technology to build up the suspense but ultimately this lackluster effort starring a very dour Harrison Ford fails to engage the audience. “Firewall” is predictable and formulaic, without either enough action or thrills (or convincing dialogue) to make it distinguishable from the herd.

The idea of someone spying on your family for a year or so without anyone realizing it is truly terrifying. The creepiness value of being photographed from afar while you believe you’re alone pegs out at high, and thus the idea behind “Firewall” is intriguing enough to work. It’s not totally new, but it is interesting enough to warrant exploring again. The set-up for “Firewall” could exist and that makes the film that much more scary. However, as is the case with “Firewall,” a good set-up doesn’t always equate to an entertaining film.

The Story

Ford stars as Jack Stanfield, a bank security specialist who’s married to an architect (Virginia Madsen), has two good-looking kids, a loyal dog (yes, that’s important), and a beautiful home. Life’s a bowl of cherries until one day Bill Cox (Paul Bettany) appears on the scene. Introduced by Jack’s friend Harry (Robert Forster) as a potential employer, Bill is plugged into the picture as someone interested in hiring the two away from the bank. Jack’s company is about to be swallowed up by a larger corporation and their head honcho of security (Robert Patrick) doesn’t care for Jack, so it’s logical he would consider switching employers.

Of course everything isn’t as it seems. Cox is actually the leader of a gang of criminals who invade Jack’s home, take his family hostage, and force the security specialist to hack into his own system. Bill has figured out that it’s no longer about the money physically housed inside of a bank’s vault. The big score is stealing millions from the biggest account holders via a computer program. Bill’s form of bank robbing doesn’t involve safecracking but instead computer hacking skills, and Jack’s the only man on the planet who is evidently able to get inside the security system he created.

With his family held captive by heavily armed men, Jack’s sent off to work and told to act as though nothing’s happened. No one at work appears to notice Jack’s wearing the same clothes from the day before, but what the heck. Maybe he does that once a week so we’ll give that little error a pass. But the story really deteriorates when Jack’s walking around muttering to himself, carrying on conversations with windows, and hugging his female assistant inappropriately and no antennas go up or alarm bells are set off. Jack’s the bank’s chief security officer and he’s obviously up to something – but no one catches on? That’s highly unlikely.

There are the obligatory fight scenes, some sequences in which Ford is forced to scream very loudly at the villains, and the insertion of a few characters who may or may not be bad guys. Ho hum. We really have seen all this before, haven’t we?

The Players

The best performance by far in “Firewall” is turned in by Paul Bettany. Bettany’s not usually cast in the bad guy role and really digs into this part. His steely blue eyes flash as he puts Ford’s onscreen family through torture. Despite the fact he’s the film’s main villain, he adds some humanity to the part that’s seriously missing from the other performances.

Alan Arkin has a ‘blink and you’ll miss him’ part as the bank president. It’s such a throw-away role that casting Arkin in it was merely a waste of good talent. The same goes for Robert Patrick and Robert Forster, two actors that are underutilized to the point it should be criminal. Mary Lynn Rajskub plays Ford’s assistant Janet similar to how she plays Chloe on “24,” but with slightly more warmth and she’s terrific in the small but crucial role.

Coming off an award-worthy performance in the indie hit "Sideways," Virginia Madsen steps up to the plate for this big-budget thriller and unfortunately isn't provided anything decent to play with. This is little more than the standard 'mom protecting the kids' role and Madsen's unable to do much with it.

Harrison Ford’s only given the opportunity to really show two emotions, both of which make him appear to be simply pissed off throughout the entire film. Even the scenes in which he’s interacting with his family don’t have any warmth to them as Ford comes off as a combination of angry and grumpy.

For decades Harrison Ford’s been wowing audience as the go-to action guy who’s both likable and dependable and can seriously deliver blows on the big screen without relying on stunt men to do the dirty work. But with “Firewall,” Ford’s short – albeit very nasty – fight scenes don’t cut it.

Continued on Page 2: The Action Scenes and Final Score

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