Starring: Harrison Ford, Virginia Madsen, Paul Bettany, Robert Patrick, Robert Forster, Mary Lynn Rajskub
Director: Richard Loncraine
Amidst a career defined by classic characters like Han Solo and Indiana Jones, Harrison Ford is the type of man’s man who could easily be placed along with some of Hollywood’s greatest, like Sean Connery and Steve McQueen. Then again, he’s also a 63-year-old action hero in dire need of calling it quits for good. Emerging out of quasi-retirement after an embarrassing performance alongside Josh Hartnett (who could very well replace Ford without anybody being the wiser) in “Hollywood Homicide,” the veteran actor has decided to give it another go with “Firewall,” a by-the-numbers thriller where the bad guys get what they deserve in the end, and the audience could only be so lucky.
Ford stars as Jack Stanfield, the head of network security at a successful Seattle-based bank. When he’s not at work preventing hackers from stealing millions out of his filthy rich clients' bank accounts, Jack enjoys a normal home life with his wife Beth (Virginia Madsen) and their two kids (Carly Schroeder and Jimmy Bennett). This quickly changes, however, when a team of criminals enter the Stanfield’s house and take the family hostage. The group’s leader, Bill Cox (Paul Bettany), seems to know everything about Jack, and will go to great lengths to get him to participate in an electronic heist that involves the transfer of $100 million from his bank. Initially agreeing to help the criminals with the robbery, Jack is forced to take matters into his own hands when Cox walks away with both the money and the family, and then sets up Jack to take the fall.
“Firewall” is actually quite enjoyable at first, but as the story progress, it falls off its tracks and becomes a Crazy Train with only one rule in mind: No Matter How Ridiculous This May Sound, It’ll At Least Get Our Heroes To Their Next Destination. Case in point, while tracking down Cox after the heist, Jack suddenly remembers that his dog Rusty is fitted with a GPS system (the Pet Find 3000). All he has to do is a hit up the old World Wide Web, type in a few numbers and… presto, he now knows exactly where the baddies are headed to. Sheesh, give me a break. Can it really be that easy? Have the creative minds of Hollywood screenwriters really gone that soft over the years? The only positive result that comes from this farcical moment is that it serves as a great warm-up for the so-bad-its-funny ending that has Jack going up against a few gun-toting villains with a beat-up car and his bare hands.
The acting in this film makes the lumpy story go down a lot smoother, with Ford doing his action hero thing and Bettany winning over the audience as the witty, nice guy villain. The supporting actors do what they can with what little screen time they’re given, but it ultimately feels like the filmmakers have wasted a considerable amount of talent on bullshit roles like the colleague (Robert Forster), the asshole boss (Robert Patrick) and the damsel in distress (Madsen). Mary Lynn Rajskub, whose day job involves winning my heart and lending a helping hand to a different Jack on Fox’s “24,” probably has the juiciest supporting role, but even her function in the film is limited to that of the gopher.
Why, exactly, the film is called “Firewall” we don’t really know – maybe it’s part of Ford’s last-stitch effort to bond with the iGeneration – because the events in the movie have almost nothing to do with computer network security. In fact, the closest thing to a technological hack is Jack’s MacGyver-like modification of his daughter’s iPod to use as a hard drive for the heist. Was that hideous earring Ford pranced around town wearing really not working with the kiddies, because the tech babble isn’t any better. For what it’s worth, “Firewall” might as well have been displayed in binary code. In fact, I don’t think anyone would have even noticed.
This is about as bare-bones as it gets these days. There’s “Firewall Decoded,” a chat with Harrison Ford and Richard Loncraine, and “Writing a Thriller,” a chat with screenwriter Joe Forte. Forte said he had a friend who was in the Israeli military kidnap him, just so he could get into character, as it were. The most interesting thing about “Firewall Decoded” is that you get the sense that both men, try as they may to talk up the movie, know that they’ve just made a dud. And they would be right.