Saturday, November 2, 2013

Review: "Firewall" is Not Memorable Harrison Ford Flick

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 145 (of 2006) by Leroy Douresseaux

Firewall (2006)
Running time:  105 minutes (1 hour, 45 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for some intense sequences of violence
DIRECTOR:  Robert Loncraine
WRITER:  Joe Forte
PRODUCERS:  Armyan Bernstein, Basil Iwanyk, and Jonathan Shestack
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Marco Pontecorvo
EDITOR:  Jim Page
COMPOSER:  Alexandre Desplat


Starring:  Harrison Ford, Paul Bettany, Virginia Madsen, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Robert Patrick, Robert Forster, Alan Arkin, Carly Schroeder, Jimmy Bennett, Kett Turton, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Vince Vieluf, and Vincent Gale

The subject of this movie review is Firewall, a 2006 British-American crime thriller starring Harrison Ford.  The film focuses on a security specialist who is forced into robbing the bank that he protects in order to pay a ransom for his family.

From 1990’s Presumed Innocent to 2000’s What Lies Beneath, Harrison Ford literally ruled the box office charts with a series of hit thriller flicks.  It didn’t matter if the film was set in a courtroom (like Presumed Innocent), in foreign countries (the Jack Ryan movies), a jet (Air Force One), or a haunted marriage (What Lies Beneath); Ford films were hits – some even blockbusters.  However, the new century has found Ford’s box office success largely diminished.  His 2006 film, Firewall, is a return to his 90’s form, but the film has only about a third of the scope and action thrills of his glory days.

Jack Stanfield (Harrison Ford) is the creator of Seattle-area Landrock Pacific Bank’s state-of-the-art-security system.  He has a reputation as being the man who’s thought of everything when it comes to protecting the bank from electronic theft, but Jack doesn’t know that he’s being watched.  A wily and vicious thief who says his name is Bill Cox (Paul Bettany) has hacked his way into Jack’s personal life and knows everything about Jack and his family:  wife, Beth (Virginia Madsen), his 14-year old daughter, Sarah (Carly Schroeder), and 8-year old son, Andy (Jimmy Bennett).

Now, Cox is holding Beth and the children hostage to force Jack to be their unwilling accomplice in a scheme to steal $100 million dollars from Landrock and the larger bank system with which Landrock recently merged.  Under constant surveillance, Jack must breach the very security system he created and siphon funds to several offshore accounts Cox and his accomplices own.  Jack, however, is sure that Cox will kill him and his family once Cox gets what he wants.  With only hours to accomplish his task, Jack must find, within Cox’s labyrinth of false identities, subterfuge, and plots Cox, an escape hatch through which he and his family can escape with their lives.

Firewall is an entertaining thriller, although it seems as if Ford is on automatic for this role.  Sure, he’s done this before.  He can turn on the grim intensity and growl on cue at the bad guys about what will happen if they hurt his family.  In fact, the script really plays up the hurt my family, protect the family, and family is all-important angles, as if the filmmakers were trying to hit some key red state demographic.  This family protection angle, like Ford’s performance, lacks spontaneity.

A thriller doesn’t have to be plausible to be thrilling, but Firewall stretches the limits of belief.  For every moment that I spent being thrilled, I spent two counting the times in this tale when some bank official, co-worker, or policeman would (or realistically should) have become so suspicious that he or she would have stepped in to stop this insane plot to rob a bank with the oh-so-formidable security system that the hero himself designed.  What?  Is there no oversight at this bank?

Other than Ford’s Jack Stanfield and Paul Bettany’s mechanical villain, Bill Cox, the script and the director ignore the rest of the characters, including several bank employees and officials.  The reason is simple:  the more you bring other people at the bank into this story, the more likely both the film’s plot and the villains’ plot would fall apart.  Still, Firewall is passable entertainment, especially for fans of Harrison Ford.  They won’t remember Firewall the way they do 1993’s The Fugitive, but it’s still something.

5 of 10

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Updated:  Saturday, November 02, 2013

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