Let’s face it; Harrison Ford is at the end of his shelf life as an action hero. The ravages of time were already becoming painfully obvious back in 1994’s “Clear and Present Danger,” as the former Han Solo wearily flung himself from rooftops and benefited from some lenient fight choreography. Now, over 10 years later, the 63 year-old Ford seems more suited to playing middle management types than brawlers.
Which, as far as “Firewall” goes, is probably the point. Ford plays Jack Stanfield, network security manager for Landrock Pacific Bank in Seattle. It’s a desk jockey position that – in this case – just happens to be filled by a guy in somewhat better shape than the stereotypical IT shmoe.
Landrock is poised to merge with a larger bank, and if Jack wasn’t worried enough about dealing with that, a sinister thief going by the name of Bill Cox (Paul Bettany) and his surly accomplices have invaded his home and kidnapped his wife Beth (Virginia Madsen) and two kids in order to coerce Jack to break into his own bank and steal $100 million for them.
The establishing first half of “Firewall” is nothing special. Cox has been doing reconnaissance on the Stanfield family for quite some time, and has acquired more than enough information to head off Jack’s initial attempts to extricate himself from his predicament. Of course, Cox makes the same mistake as every other villain in a Harrison Ford movie: namely, he underestimates the survivability of one of America’s most bankable movie stars. By the time we realize Cox has no intention of keeping his word, Jack is forced to resort to extraordinary measures to turn the tables on his antagonist.
Movies based on computer hackery have been around since “War Games” and, arguably, have been declining in accuracy ever since. “Firewall” compares favorably to earlier efforts like “Hackers” (and – *shudder* – “Swordfish”) but can’t keep it up, as an unexpected complication in Cox’s plans force Jack to cannibalize various household electronics (a fax machine and an iPod, among others) to get the thieves their money and free his family. What starts off as a mostly harmless formula thriller – and one with generally competent performances all around – soon lapses into technological improbability. The entire western half of the state of Washington seems to be serviced by a gigantic wireless hub, for one thing.
Naturally, no Harrison Ford movie would be complete without a climactic melee against the bad guy. Director Richard Loncraine at least has the decency to show his aging lead struggling throughout the movie with physical activities that a younger man could easily accomplish, but even when we reach a point where the prudent thing for Jack to do would’ve been to call in SWAT and let professional marksmen take care of Cox and his gang of slacker thugs, he has to wade in like Indiana Jones/Jack Ryan/Rick Deckard and take care of business. “Firewall’s” predictable second half betrays the film’s early promise. Then again, what were you expecting?
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