FIREWALL

 

Review by Mark Walters

 

Harrison Ford is easily my favorite actor of all time.  There's just something about the guy, whether he's playing a tough hero, or a vulnerable victim, he always does a good job.  My buddy Adam Hughes and I have joked about the fact that Harrison Ford movies these days pretty much boil down to two things - he wears a grey suit and protects his family.  You could call it the Harrison Ford formula.  I couldn't help but chuckle after seeing the trailer for FIREWALL, since the aforementioned formula was blatantly validated.  I mean let's face it, we all want to see Harrison kicking butt and dropping one-liners that would make Arnold Schwarzenegger jealous.  But the truth is he's getting a little old to do just that, and (as much as I hate to admit it) it shows.  All that said, I was still willing to give FIREWALL a chance, since at the very least it looked... intense.

 Jack Stanfield (Ford) is a computer security expert for a major bank, where he's designed a system that protects his company from thieves and frauds.  Things at home are a little hectic, as his wife Beth (Virginia Madsen) can't seem to keep their kids under control, or at least from fighting with each other.  Things at work are also a bit stressful, since the boss (Alan Arkin) is about to promote a cocky executive (Robert Patrick) over Jack, which looks to be a potentially uncomfortable situation.  When Jack's friend Harry (Robert Forster) introduces him to an investor (Paul Bettany), it looks at first like a good deal may be in the works.  But the investor, who calls himself Bill Cox, reveals a sinister plot in which he's kidnapped Jack's family in order to force him into stealing 100 million dollars from the bank's richest customers.  Faced with little other option, Jack must do what he can to keep his family alive, which includes keeping his bank in the dark.  But Cox isn't a man to be trusted, and our hero must ultimately fight back any way he can.

 This film deals with issues that are of some concern these days, such as identity theft and being spied on.  The plot is mainly about holding hostages, but also explores the limits of a man's ability and patience.  Ford gets several opportunities to explore a variety of emotions, and it's a role that allows him to build in intensity with each scene.  In many ways this is the perfect kind of character for him.  Paul Bettany is the kind of villain you want in a film.  He's deadly serious, very cruel, and not above doing things other screen villains wouldn't dare.  This is the kind of guy that WILL kill the kids if his victim doesn't cooperate.  Virginia Madsen is okay in the scared wife role, but doesn't show quite as much emotional distress as you'd expect.  I think a normal woman in that situation would be significantly more scared, and show signs of fear more outwardly, but maybe that's just me.  Plus there is an age difference apparent between her and Ford, which could've been addressed just a bit.  The kids, played by Carly Schroeder and Jimmy Bennett, are hit and miss depending on the scene.  Again, you would think they'd be a bit more shaken up being held at gunpoint by Cox's cronies.

Mary Lynn Rajskub, who plays Chloe on Fox's 24, turns in a nice performance as Jack's secretary.  At one point she gets mad and yells "Screw you Jack!", which seemed like an almost unintentional channeling of her character on 24.  The rest of the cast is made up of capable actors, like Robert Patrick and Robert Forster, but they don't have a whole lot to do.  As much as I love seeing Alan Arkin in any movie, he's practically set dressing here.  Robert Patrick only comes close to being a great character in the story, but considering the other plot points there really isn't time to stray far from the important matters at hand.  You might be safe to say there were one too many characters to keep up with.  There are also a few moments involving some of the principal characters that came across as a little unclear.  Despite the simplistic underlying story, the script is pretty complex, so you'll need to pay attention.  One major missing element is where the bad guys come from, and how exactly they picked Jack.  I mean it's a given that Cox found what he felt to be the perfect situation, but there's no explanation as to how he arrived on it, other than him saying things like "I've been watching you for a while."  It might have been nice to see a little history with his character, but I guess that could've just slowed things down.

Overall the film is very well done, and works on many levels.  British director Richard Loncraine, who previously helmed films like WIMBLEDON and RICHARD III, does a nice job keeping things moving.  I was a little surprised to see a name like his attached to a film like this, but he impressed me regardless.  Maybe he should do more action movies!  There's an extremely intense fight sequence toward the end, in which you can clearly see Harrison is doing all his own stunts.  I can't say enough good things about this fight.  It really satisfies both in terms of action and resolve.  In many ways it makes the whole thing worth it.  Plus it gave me a renewed confidence that he can still do INDIANA JONES 4 and have it be believable.  This film made me think of AIR FORCE ONE, only on a smaller level.  Perhaps the only standout annoyance comes from a rather unusual plot device that allows Jack to "track" the bad guys.  Without spoiling it, I can't say any more than that, but you'll either find it ingenious or just plain silly.  The story actually manages to inject a few moments of humor into the film, no matter how serious the events may be.  Though these moments can seem a bit out a place, it helps keep the movie from taking itself too seriously, which is a good thing.  I walked away from this enjoying the experience, and I think audiences will find it to be an entertaining ride.  It's certainly not Ford's best film, but it's a welcome improvement after his last few efforts.  I think Harrison can be good in just about any movie he does, as long as the script works.  For the most part this one does.  All I can say now is please, please, please bring on INDY 4!!!

BIGFANBOY.com score - On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being best, I give FIREWALL an 8.


Visit the official Warner Brothers FIREWALL movie website by clicking here.


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