Firewall (2006) / Thriller-Action

MPAA Rated: PG-13 for violence and language
Running Time: 105 min.

Cast: Harrison Ford, Paul Bettany, Virginia Madsen, Jimmy Bennett, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Robert Patrick, Carly Schroeder, Robert Forster, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Vince Vieluf
Director: Richard Loncraine
Screenplay: Joe Forte

Review published February 15, 2006

You've seen it all before, only much better, in this routine thriller that's only notable as a starring vehicle for Harrison Ford (Hollywood Homicide, K-19) than anything else.  Ford's involvement proves to be a double-edged sword, as it is both the best thing about it, as well as the worst.  His performance and star status make us willing to root for his everyman character, as he traverses a virtual minefield to save himself and his family, but at the same time, we know that in a mainstream movie with quintessential hero Ford as the star, no actual harm is going to befall him or the ones he loves.  Without the belief that real damage could happen to any of the protagonists, there's a lack of genuine tension necessary to keep us glued in to the thriller engine this runs on. 

Ford plays Jack Stanfield, a network security expert working for a major banking corporation.  Due to his high profile reputation for security, and his high-level access to the bank's prized account information, Jack finds himself the victim of a group of high-tech thieves, led by a man calling himself Bill Cox (Bettany, Master and Commander) who hold Jack's family for ransom in order to gain access into the wealthiest of the bank customers accounts for a major transfer.  Now Jack must try to hack into his own system, which he has painstakingly helped make nearly impervious to would-be hackers and thieves.

Firewall isn't a bad movie, but it does lack a spark of creativity and ingenuity that would have helped it be much more than a so-so time-waster.  The only somewhat interesting angle is the showcasing of a new kind of "bank robber", those that seek to do it using electronic means rather than the "analog" way of a personal visit to the local branch.  As much as they try to spice up the jargon to include modern "computer-ese", the execution of Firewall is still a very standard mix of heist film and family-under-siege, with nothing really new or notable to keep you rapt with attention, save for Ford's performance.

This is Ford's first starring role in almost three years, but given the amount of scripts he probably sees come his way, it's a mystery as to why he would want to make such a throwaway movie.  Certainly, this decision wasn't to branch out as an actor, as Ford has made a career out of playing variations of this same basic character, having to save his family or girlfriend through difficult means from would-be predators.  Ford is too good of an actor, and still enough of a box office draw, to make such a by-the-numbers suspense vehicle. The subject matter is definitely not blockbuster material, which begs the question of why he would bother.  My best guess is that Ford knows he can play this kind of role in his sleep, and was attracted to its simplicity, although to his credit, he does perform it with his trademark skill.

Firewall might be built around computer-age concepts and ideas, but underneath the superficial newness, this is the same tired thriller Hollywood has been churning out for decades.  Were it not for Ford's presence, it would be the kind of slick b-movie one might find going straight to video store shelves, where it would languish in obscurity.  Unless you're a fan of the stars, or are just a sucker for the genre, this easily decipherable and hole-ridden entry proves to be unworthy of its high-security alluding title.

Qwipster's rating:

2006 Vince Leo