Protect Yourself Against "Firewall"
- 2006 9 Feb
Release Date: February 10, 2006
Rating: PG-13 (some intense sequences of violence)
Run Time: 105 min.
Director: Richard Loncraine
Actors: Harrison Ford, Paul Bettany, Virginia Madsen, Alan Arkin, Robert Patrick
Consider this review a “firewall” – a form of protection keeping you from the new Harrison Ford movie of the same name. Directed by Richard Loncraine ( "Wimbledon", "Richard III"), "Firewall" goes from the formulaic to the preposterous before limping to a violent but predictable conclusion.
Ford stars as Jack Stanfield, a security specialist for Landrock Pacific Bank, who thwarts system hackers with a few key strokes. A paragon of virtue, Jack has been blessed with a beautiful wife (Virginia Madsen), two cute kids, and a large suburban home. (A lengthy introduction of the family dog – a sure sign that the animal will play a crucial role in the outcome of the story – is our first hint, early in the film, that the plot eventually will careen out of control.)
But all is not right in Jack’s world. Ominous images during the opening credits reveal that he’s being monitored. Soon a debt collector comes calling, claiming Jack owes $95,000 in gambling debts.
No one believes the debt collector. They all know Jack’s been a victim of identity theft because he says he doesn’t gamble, and his word is good enough for them. Jack is, after all, a man of integrity, and he has other things on his mind, like “pizza night” with his adorable family.
The movie kicks into gear when a potential business partner, Bill Cox (Paul Bettany), reveals himself to be a cold-hearted thief. Using Jack to penetrate Landrock’s security systems, our villain plans to extract $100 million and share it with his accomplices, who break into the Stanfield home and take Jack’s wife and kids hostage until the scheme can be completed.
Jack’s attempts to resist Cox’s plot, and his family’s unwillingness to play along with the criminals’ demands, lead to unsettling consequences: His wife is slapped and a gun is pointed at his daughter. His son is deceived into eating something that causes a severe allergic reaction, restricting his breathing and nearly killing him. Getting the worst of it, however, is one of the accomplices, who, after nearly derailing the scheme, takes a bullet to the back of his head. It’s all delivered up in detail, sure to further desensitize audiences to brutal violence – all in the name of entertainment. It’s extremely unpleasant to watch.
The plot twists and turns, as Jack tries to outwit Cox while maintaining a business-as-usual façade for his friends and co-workers. Jack eventually manages to break free of his captors long enough to discover his betrayer, who spills the beans within earshot of Jack, hiding in a nearby closet. Just when you suspect the film has bottomed out, the filmmakers bring back the family dog for an absurd plot development, and put the asthmatic son in jeopardy once more. Cue the car chase and massive explosion, and, of course, a big fight between Jack and his tormentor, Cox. The only remaining question is just how grisly that encounter will be. The end result is disturbing, feeding the audience’s desire for justice by providing a visceral, ugly payoff.
Ford and Bettany are first-rate actors, but neither gives a memorable performances in "Firewall," a film that fails to stand out in any way. More disappointing is Madsen, coming off her wonderful performance in "Sideways," who’s given little to do here. A twist late in the film that reveals her to be conflicted and flawed comes out of the blue, and serves little purpose. Alan Arkin and Robert Patrick also are underutilized.
Indeed, the only surprise about "Firewall" is how it attracted such top talent to this mediocre project.
AUDIENCE: Older teens and up
- Language/Profanity: Lord’s name taken in vain; various profanities.
- Drugs/Alcohol: None.
- Sex/Nudity: None.
- Violence/Crime: Plenty of fisticuffs, gun play, chilling threats of bodily harm, and some nasty deaths.
Religion: A minor character is referred to, derisively, as “Born-Again Bobby”; he’s shown playing guitar at a praise-and-worship concert.