© 2006 Ray Wong
Is it summer yet? FIREWALL, a run-of-the-mill thriller starring Harrison Ford on AIR FORCE ONE repeat would have been an okay popcorn flick for July. Unfortunately, timing is everything.
Jack Stanfield (Ford) is the VP of Security at a prominent bank in Seattle. He has a beautiful home architected by his supportive and loving wife Beth (Madsen). They have a young son Andy (Bennett) and a rebellious teenage daughter Sarah (Schroeder). Jack goes to work one day and discovers that someone has stolen his identity and racked up $95,000 of gambling debt. He chalks it up as a minor irritation but doesn’t pay attention to it. When he meets a client named Bill Cox (Bettany) for a business dinner, he has no idea that his life is going to change.
Cox turns out to be a bank robber of the digital age. With the help of his minions, he holds Jack’s family hostage and forces Jack to help him break into the bank’s computer system and transfer $100 million to his offshore accounts. Jack resists and Cox threatens to kill his family. Reluctantly, Jack carries out the operation, only to finds that Cox has other plans for him and his family…
Ford hasn’t done much after HOLLYWOOD HOMICIDE, the 2003 stinker with Josh Hartnett. Here, Ford cruises his way through the film – he could probably play Jack Stanfield with his eyes closed. He seems content to be doing this for money. Madsen (SIDEWAYS) also wastes her talent in this thriller. Her character has no depth and she’s reduced to playing the helpless mother/wife. The children are chess pieces – their personalities are superficial and it’s hard to care about them. Bettany (WINBELDON) also is wasted. His performance is dispassionately cold and monotonous. The supporting cast including Patrick (WALK THE LINE), Forster (BOUNTY HUNTER), Arkin (LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE) and Rajskub (LEGALLY BLONDE 2) don’t have much to do, but they serve the plot as needed.
In fact, that’s one of the big problems with the film. None of the characters have depth. They are exact cardboard cutouts from hundreds of thrillers we’ve seen before. The story and the plot are cookie-cutter material as well. The whole production has that stale, been-there-done-that feel to it. The premise is interesting enough, but the execution is lackluster at best, ridiculous at worse. Anytime we have a thriller that deals with technologies, the result seems to be laughable. The way they break into the bank sounds interesting at first, but totally implausible on second thought. The breakneck pace helps a little, to stop us from asking too many logical questions, but the repetitive actions and consequences become tiresome quickly. The plot takes a more interesting turn two-third in, when Jack realizes the robbery is the least of his problem. However, by then, the audience’s patience has already worn thin.
The script by Forte (SAY I DO) just isn’t very credible. It looks and feels like a thriller, but the plot twists are forced, and they seem to be taken out from a “How to write a thriller” guidebook. Loncraine’s (WIMBLEDON) direction is workmanlike, by-the-book. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just that, with its predictable plot and two-dimensional characters, FIREWALL is so uninspiring as a thriller that it’s a wonder how a project like this took off and attracted stars like Ford and Bettany. If you ever find the secret, please lock it behind a firewall and never let it out again.
Stars: Harrison Ford, Virginia Madsen, Paul Bettany, Alan Arkin, Robert Patrick, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Carly Schroeder, Jimmy Bennett
Director: Richard Loncraine
Writer: Joe Forte
Distributor: Warner Bros.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence
Running time: 105 minutes
Script – 5
Performance – 6
Direction – 6
Cinematography – 6
Editing – 7
Production – 7
Total Score – 6.1 out of 10