Review: Firewall

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Jack Stansfield has it all, courtesy of his successful career as a computer security specialist with Landrock Pacific Bank. He and his family are quietly living out their version of the American Dream in the lap of luxury in a sprawling, split-level, suburban Seattle mansion blessed with breathtaking views of the ocean. But they have no idea that that dream is about to turn into a harrowing nightmare, because a gang of goons are about to hatch a well-planned plot to kidnap Jack’s wife, Beth (Virginia Madsen), and kids, 8 year-old, Andrew (Jimmy Bennett), and 14 year-old, Sarah (Carly Schroeder).

Knowing that he is capable of cracking the codes, the intruders demand that he steal $100 million from his employer as ransom. But this, of course, only implicates the compromised computer expert in the heist. If Firewall’s fact pattern sounds vaguely familiar, one need only ascertain that the picture stars Harrison Ford, who has played practically the same character several times before, most obviously in Frantic (1988) and The Fugitive (1993).

In Frantic, he was a humorless doctor who couldn’t count on either the cops or the French embassy when his wife mysteriously disappeared while the couple was in Paris for a medical convention. There, the humorless, happily-married husband had to rely on the help of an attractive young woman whose powers of seduction he had no trouble resisting.

In The Fugitive, Ford was back as another stoic M.D., though this time framed for the murder of his spouse. But the Hitchcockian formula still relied upon his being bewildered about his predicament and having to rely on his own wits to crack the case and clear his name.

There’s not much new about Firewall either, despite the movie’s generous portions of pretentious techno-babble. At heart, it’s just another generic, pressure-cooked, non-stop action thriller about an honest Everyman forced against his will to the wrong side of the law for the sake of his family. Unable to avail himself of help from the authorities, he then has to rise to the occasion in a battle of wits against a sadistic villain.

At the point of departure, we learn that Jack’s company, Landrock Pacific, is contemplating a merger with an outfit led by a British businessman named Bill Cox (Paul Bettany). But what no one suspects is that Cox is a conniving crook. Worse, he and his henchman, with the help of digital video recorders and parabolic microphones, have been secretly monitoring every intimate detail of the Stansfield household’s daily activities.

As a result, the conspirators know how to defeat their burglar alarm and the fact that little Andrew is extremely allergic to peanut butter. So, when they sweep into the home and hold the family hostage, resistance is futile. However, after Jack is allowed out to hack into Landrock Pacific’s accounts, he summons up the gumption to take them on, relying only on a few handily-placed clues, and the assistance of his unfairly-fired secretary (Mary Lynn Rajskub) and his intrepid dog, Rusty.

To the extent that you are a diehard Harrison Ford fan, you are likely to enjoy this latest variation on a tried-and-true theme. Delivering a vintage performance, the spry 63 year-old proves himself still capable of mixing it up convincingly in an assortment of fight scenes. Plus, Paul Bettany’s equally-inspired turn as the despicable mastermind only adds to one’s ultimate enjoyment of the score-settling resolution.
Another edge-of-your-seat, roller coaster ride from a matinee idol everybody loves to root for.

Very good (3 stars)
PG-13 for intense violence.
Running time: 105 minutes
Studio: Warner Brothers

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