Thursday, February 09, 2006


Title: Firewall (2006)
Dir: Richard Loncraine
Tagline: They're Already Inside.
Rating: **1/2 out of 5 stars

For the Diamondback.....

Imagine this movie pitch: Harrison Ford portrays an average working man who is thrust into danger when his family is taken hostage. Sound familiar? It should, since Mr. Ford has played that role so many times he deserves the copyright. In Richard Loncraine’s Firewall, the 63-year-old actor is up to old tricks, with mediocre results.

Ford portrays Jack Ryan…oops, I mean, Jack Stanfield, the head of cyber security for a major bank. At home, he has a devoted wife Beth (Virginia Madsen, Sideways) and two children. Life is good for Jack until he meets a businessman named Bill Cox (Paul Bettany, A Beautiful Mind) who turns out to be a criminal mastermind.

Cox and a team of armed thugs hold the Stanfield family hostage until Jack helps them electronically rob the bank he works for. Unbeknownst to the kidnappers, the bank is undergoing a merger and even Jack cannot access the money without bypassing sophisticated anti-theft software. Under constant surveillance by the criminals, Jack must devise a way to hack into the bank accounts, save his family, and clear his name from the crime.

If you enjoy this kind of tired plotline, you will not be disappointed. The movie packs enough guns, computer gadgetry, and explosions to satisfy most action film fans. Realism, however, is another issue entirely, like when Jack uses his daughter’s iPod to electronically steal millions of dollars. Even some of the movie’s scenery looks fake, leading me to wonder if Loncraine blew the entire film budget on Ford’s salary.

Those flaws aside, Firewall satisfies as a popcorn movie. The film abandons its potential to be a riveting high-tech caper about the dangers of relying on technology, and instead sticks to what it knows: action. It maintains a fairly strong hold on the audience right up until the final moments, which are just plain silly. There is a deus ex machina involving the family dog that will have you chuckling.

One-trick pony Harrison Ford is sufficient as Jack Stanfield but his weariness with age really shows. He has lost the wit and charm that made him famous in the days of Han Solo, and all that remains is a grumpy old man. As Jack’s wife, Madsen is good but underused. The movie also completely wastes actors Robert Patrick (eternally remembered as T-1000 from Terminator 2), Alan Arkin (Grosse Pointe Blank), and Robert Forster (Jackie Brown).

The best performance of the movie comes from Paul Bettany, who nails the charming-but-deadly persona of Cox, an otherwise stock movie villain. This bad guy is not only suave but is smarter than the hero, for once. Bettany’s ruthless performance has me hoping there is truth to the rumors that he will play the Joker in the next Batman film.

Firewall offers nothing new. If you saw Air Force One, you have practically seen Firewall. It is neither boring nor heart-pumping. One moment you will gasp, and the next you will roll your eyes. In fact, it is a film critic’s worst nightmare because it is neither good nor bad. Loncraine sticks to a recycled formula that works, if only for a brainless good time at the movie theater.

There is enough tension and occasional humor to entertain most filmgoers. If you are willing to suspend disbelief for a bit, you can find the fun in Firewall. If not, go rent Raiders of the Lost Ark and reminisce about a time when Harrison Ford had no problem taking on Nazis, let alone a few hackers with guns.