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Category:    Home > Reviews > Action > Thriller > Heist > Firewall (Theatrical Film Review)

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 firewall.


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 Homicide.


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