| February 16, 2006

During one of his obligatory press stops to publicize his new thriller, “Firewall,” Harrison Ford is asked by Jon Stewart of “The Daily Show,” “When will people in the movies learn not to fuck with Harrison Ford?” Mid-yawn during one of the interminable cat-and-mouse sequences in the movie, I’m asking myself the same question. We never at any point get the feeling that Harrison Ford or his held-hostage family are ever in any real danger–they’re too pure, and the bad guys are just too dumb.
The movie centers on Jack Stanfield (Ford), an IT genius who’s helped build a once small bank from the ground up. Just as his life seems to be experiencing perhaps its first speed bump in history (his bank has been taken over and before coming home to brilliant architect-wife Virginia Madsen and two flawless children he must deal with the slightly condescending execs of the takeover company), bad men show up at his home and take his wife and children hostage.
The “bad men,” we soon realize, are the minions of British mastermind Bill Cox (Paul Bettany), who is intent on using Stanfield to electronically break into his bank and make off with $100 million. While the thugs are busy securing Stanfield’s helpless family, Cox baby-sits Stanfield, and instructs him on exactly how he’s supposed to facilitate their heist.
Screenwriter Joe Forte seems to go to great lengths to convince us of the fact that Cox is a consummate professional–he’s done his homework on Stanfield and is fully prepared to execute a seamless e-heist. Once this image is shattered, however–when we realize Cox didn’t account for the takeover the bank just experienced and is therefore taken unawares by the lack of servers for him to actually hack into–all credulity of this already thin and familiar storyline is thrown out the window. If Cox went so far as to educate himself on Stanfield’s son’s peanut allergy, why in God’s name wouldn’t he be aware of the major and public information of Stanfield’s bank’s takeover? (This also soon begs the question of from where precisely the title of the film derived; my limited understanding of an electronic “firewall” has nothing to do with physically plugging into servers or scanning account numbers with a fax machine.)
Directed by Richard Loncraine–who chose to follow such highbrow works as “My House in Umbria” and “Band of Brothers” with “Wimbledon” and this fluffy thriller–“Firewall” is ultimately so generic and predictable that it’s rendered utterly forgettable. One outrageous plot turn after another deprives the film of the required crescendo of an engaging thriller–Forte apparently intended the film to grab you from the get-go and keep full speed ahead throughout, but the flimsy premise doesn’t support this device. Nothing about the film feels inspired–even the clanking, violent score of Alexandre Desplat feels recycled, not to mention obtrusive. Watching the likes of accomplished actors such as Bettany, Ford, and Madsen reduced to this drivel makes you wince at times.
It’s a rough hangover coming off of awards season (comparing this thriller to Woody Allen’s “Match Point,” for instance, is, well, difficult), and considering December seems to be about the only worthwhile month for going to the theatre, I guess I’ d better settle in for a long haul. Someone pass me the Advil and a Bloody Mary, please.

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