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 youre alone pegs out at high, and thus the idea behind Firewall is intriguing enough to work. Its 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 doesnt always equate to an entertaining film.
Ford stars as Jack Stanfield, a bank security specialist whos married to an architect (Virginia Madsen), has two good-looking kids, a loyal dog (yes, thats important), and a beautiful home. Lifes a bowl of cherries until one day Bill Cox (Paul Bettany) appears on the scene. Introduced by Jacks 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. Jacks company is about to be swallowed up by a larger corporation and their head honcho of security (Robert Patrick) doesnt care for Jack, so its logical he would consider switching employers.
Of course everything isnt as it seems. Cox is actually the leader of a gang of criminals who invade Jacks home, take his family hostage, and force the security specialist to hack into his own system. Bill has figured out that its no longer about the money physically housed inside of a banks vault. The big score is stealing millions from the biggest account holders via a computer program. Bills form of bank robbing doesnt involve safecracking but instead computer hacking skills, and Jacks 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, Jacks sent off to work and told to act as though nothings happened. No one at work appears to notice Jacks wearing the same clothes from the day before, but what the heck. Maybe he does that once a week so well give that little error a pass. But the story really deteriorates when Jacks 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. Jacks the banks chief security officer and hes obviously up to something but no one catches on? Thats 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, havent we?
The best performance by far in Firewall is turned in by Paul Bettany. Bettanys not usually cast in the bad guy role and really digs into this part. His steely blue eyes flash as he puts Fords onscreen family through torture. Despite the fact hes the films main villain, he adds some humanity to the part thats seriously missing from the other performances.
Alan Arkin has a blink and youll miss him part as the bank president. Its 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 Fords assistant Janet similar to how she plays Chloe on 24, but with slightly more warmth and shes 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 Fords 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 hes interacting with his family dont have any warmth to them as Ford comes off as a combination of angry and grumpy.
For decades Harrison Fords been wowing audience as the go-to action guy whos 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, Fords short albeit very nasty fight scenes dont cut it.
Continued on Page 2: The Action Scenes and Final Score