Firewall (Theatrical Film Review)
Stars: Harrison Ford, Paul Bettany, Virginia Madsen, Mary Lynn
Rajskub, Robert Patrick, Robert Forster, Alan Arkin
Director: Richard Loncraine
Critic's rating: 7 out of 10
Review by Chuck O'Leary
The new thriller Firewall is a pastiche of other
kidnapping thrillers such as Ransom, Don't Say A Word,
Hostage and Desperate Hours, but still
manages to sustain interest despite its lack of originality.
So much of Firewall echoes other movies that
it's a small miracle much of it works as well as it does. Let's see,
there's the same exact child actor (Jimmy Bennett) from last winter's
Hostage being held captive all over again. There's the
father who courageously calls the kidnappers bluff right out of Ransom,
and an almost identical final shot to that of Don't Say A Word.
Firewall, however, works as a solid piece of escapism because
it gets the basics right. Harrison Ford gets to play the kind of
controlled anxiety he's always been of master of for nearly the entire film, Paul
Bettany is a perfectly hateable villain and director Richard Loncraine knows
how to build suspense by simply embellishing tried and true thriller
conventions within a plot that revolves around state-of-the-art technology.
A movie with this many shots of computer screens runs the risk of
turning dull in a hurry, but Loncraine and screenwriter Joe Forte wisely
never lose sight of the human element and let their story become overwhelmed by
the high-tech elements.
Ford stars a Jack Stanfield, the vice president of security at a
Seattle bank who designed the bank's computerized security system. Hence, its
Enter Bill Cox (Bettany), an extortionist who's been
studying every aspect of Jack's life. After meeting Jack under false
pretenses, Cox reveals his true intentions. Cox and a group of criminal
lackeys will hold Jack's wife (Virginia Madsen), teen-age daughter (Carly
Schroeder) and little boy (Bennett) captive at gunpoint threatening to kill
them if Jack doesn't help Cox break into the bank's security system and
transfer $100 million from the accounts of the bank's wealthy customers into
Cox's own account in the Grand Cayman Islands.
Unlucky for Jack, his house sits remotely on an ocean-side cliff
(this is when some nosy neighbors might come in handy), and his bank is in
the middle of a merger. Making matters worse, a new security man,
Gary Mitchell (Robert Patrick), has been hired to oversee things, and
Gary has already taken a disliking to Jack. And because his every
move is being filmed and recorded by Cox's high-tech surveillance toys, Jack is
unable to involve the police or tell his boss (Alan Arkin) or
business partner (Robert Forster).
Jack's secretary (the likable Mary Lynn Rajskub) senses
something's wrong, but Jack knows any outsiders who become privy
to his dilemma will be quickly eliminated by the ruthless Cox.
Firewall certainly doesn't break any new ground. But if you can
suspend your disbelief just a little bit, it succeeds as an intense, fast-paced
thriller that grabs you and doesn't let go. And unlike most PG-13
thrillers, it retains a refreshing edge.
After two consecutive flops, Ford could use a hit. While I'm
pretty sure Firewall won't even come close to being
a financial success on the level of an Air Force One, it
should do well enough and please enough people to quell the stench of Hollywood