Firewall

(2006) * 1/2 Pg-13
100 min. Warner Brothers. Director: Richard Loncraine. Cast: Harrison Ford, Paul Bettany, Jimmy Bennett, Virginia Madsen, Mary Lynn Rajskub.

Last year, in a movie called Hostage, a family with a kid played by Jimmy Bennett is taken hostage while a grizzled professional is blackmailed by those who have ensnared his family; the music score was by Alexandre Desplat. This year, a movie called Firewall depicts a family, with a kid played by Jimmy Bennett, taken hostage while a grizzled professional is blackmailed by those who have ensnared his family; the music score is, coincidentally, by Alexandre Desplat.

This time, the grizzled star is Harrison Ford, who provides significant added value to a rote, so-called thriller. But Ford's sheer star power doesn't get much of a workout until the last ten minutes, when Ford proves over and over again that, at age 63, he can still take a hit. Prior to the showdown with Paul Bettany's villainous, family-stealing bastard, Ford frets and struts magnetically—watch, again, as the sleeping giant awakes to danger, every line on his face becoming alert. With no new shadings, though, Firewall is less compelling than a lifetime-achievement clip reel.

The narrative hook here is a meeting of high-tech thievery and low-tech muscle, with fraud security incapable of protecting the identity of Ford's bank security expert Jack Stanfield. The movable decimals in a variety of important bank accounts prove likewise prone as a well-armed crew makes mean in Stanfield's own home. The filmmakers play it safe, as we know they will, so where's the suspense? If we're going to sit through this home-invasion scenario yet again, I think we're owed a dead kid. Or at least a contusion. Maybe lightly stun the dog? Toss us a bone here!

The embezzlement-scam plot is downright silly: when, in recorded history, has anything like Firewall actually happened? Since we can't take the hopelessly incredible film seriously, writer Joe Forte and director Richard Loncraine should know well enough to go for free-wheeling escapism (c'mon, the title is screaming for an exclamation point..."Firewall!"). Willfully ignoring the absurdity, Loncraine feels compelled to match Ford's earnest star-player demeanor. So Firewall is joylessly serious for most of its running time, a fruitless attempt to prove that the film isn't lousy. By the time Loncraine gives up the ghost and starts making a high-tech Rin Tin Tin picture, audiences will already be snoozing in their popcorn.

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