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.
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.
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.
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