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Overall Rating
2.06

Awesome: 1.25%
Worth A Look: 12.5%
Average: 16.25%
Pretty Bad: 31.25%
Total Crap38.75%

9 reviews, 26 user ratings


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Firewall
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by Peter Sobczynski

"'Get Away From My yadda-yadda-yadda . . .where's my $20 million?'"
1 stars

From the 1980's through the mid-90's, you couldn’t find an actor with a better career going for him than Harrison Ford. He was the kind of movie star that hadn’t been seen in Hollywood since the days of Humphrey Bogart–women swooned over his looks, men admired his tough, no-nonsense attitude and any kid who saw “Star Wars” or “Raiders of the Lost Ark” at the right age simply wanted to be him. His films were a canny mixture of sure-fire hits (his excursions as Han Solo, Indiana Jones and Jack Ryan as well as “The Fugitive”) and more challenging projects that allowed him to work with bolder filmmakers like Ridley Scott (“Blade Runner”), Peter Weir (“Witness” and “The Mosquito Coast”) and Roman Polanski (“Frantic”) and he became such a hugely popular performer, with audiences and critics alike, that even his rare missteps (such as the grotesque “Regarding Henry”) were forgiven as minor aberrations.

This streak lasted until about 1994 and when it ended, it ended hard and since that time, Ford has embarked on a series of films so embarrassingly bad, especially in comparison to his earlier triumphs, that it has seemed at times as if he has deliberately been choosing the worst possible projects. Films such as “Six Days, Seven Nights,” “K-19: The Widowmaker” and “Hollywood Homicide” might have seemed like good ideas at the time but all they did is underline the fact that you should never cast Ford in a role that requires a convincing romantic lead, a convincing Russian accent or someone to share the screen with the likes of Josh Hartnett. Perhaps in honor of the actor he had long been compared too, he played a part once performed by Bogart–unfortunately, it was in Sydney Pollack’s hideous remake of “Sabrina” and he looked just as ill-cast there as Bogart did in the original. (In an even-more inexplicable move, he not only apparently continued to accept phone calls from Pollack actually worked with Pollack again in the lousy “Random Hearts.”) The final nail in the coffin for many of his fans came when he decided to decline the central role of the drug czar that later went to Michael Douglas in Steven Soderbergh’s award-winning “Traffic,” reportedly because of an aversion to Soderbergh’s on-the-fly shooting style; he felt more at home in Robert Zemeckis’s silly Hitchcock pastiche “What Lies Beneath,” a film that I can almost guarantee that you haven’t given a minutes thought to since you saw it six years ago. His taste in projects has become so suspect that I am guessing that a good number of people are now silently praying that the endlessly discussed fourth “Indiana Jones” picture never gets off the ground so that it won’t besmirch the good name of the previous films.

Which brings us, sadly, to “Firewall,” a film which may not be the single worst film that he has ever been involved with, though it may be the most singularly useless one of the bunch. An utterly anonymous piece of action fodder derived from any number of earlier, better films–the kind of thing that you would normally expect to find in a straight-to-video project starring Steven Seagal or a lesser Baldwin–it contains a first half so lacking in originality, tension or any kind of cinematic craft that could be described in words other than “bland competence”; if some action films seem overcaffinated, this one is closer to being zonked out on Thorazine. Whatever the prescription, it seems to have run out by the second half and a film that previously came across as something like a lesser John Badham vehicle suddenly goes screwy in a manner that you would normally expect in an Uwe Boll joint and what is supposed to be a taut thriller winds up delivering more inadvertent laughs than most straight comedies I’ve seen in recent months while Ford grimly goes through the kind of goofiness that we would normally expect from Leslie Nielsen in the parody version.

This time around, Ford plays Jack Stanfield, the security specialist for a mid-sized Seattle bank that is in the process of merging with a larger bank. Like most security specialists from mid-sized Seattle banks, he lives in a house that, in terms of size and security tricks, falls somewhere in between Bill Gates’s residence and the joint from “When a Stranger Calls.” And like many films of this genre, it opens with a normal morning routine that is meant to a.) serve as a contrast to all the excitement to follow and b.) introduce a number of plot elements that will prove to be of importance later on–attentive viewers will note that his dog has a new collar, his daughter owns an I-Pod, his son owns a remote-control car that causes interference on seemingly every electronic device in the immediate vicinity and his wife is the still-freakishly-hot Virginia Madsen. Not unexpectedly, Jack’s day at work does not go smoothly. He argues about something or other with the weasel (Robert Patrick) from the new bank who insinuates that Jack’s methods aren’t up to the task of the new merger. He is embarrassed when a debt collector arrives and announces that he owes thousands of dollars because of on-line gambling–his boss (Robert Forster) believes him when he says he has never gambled on anything and surmises that he may have had his identity stolen by dumpster-diving scoundrels. (Frankly, if I were getting paid apparently more money than God to be a computer security specialist, I would almost rather be known as a degenerate gambler than someone who lets his personal information fall into the hands of others so easily.) Finally, just as Jack is about to head home, Bill Cox (Paul Bettany), the quaint Brit whom he was discussing a project with earlier pops up in his car, sticks a gun in his back and forces him to drive home, where he discovers that his family has been taken hostage by the Geek Squad.

It seems that Bill has concocted a plan to steal $100 million in small increments from the largest depositors via computer and they need Jack’s know-how to get them into the system. There are only two minor hitches to this plan. First, the group has apparently spent so much money getting this plan up and running that even if they score the entire $100 million, there is a very good chance that they might still find themselves in the red by the conclusion of the heist. The second is that while Bill brags that he knows every single detail of Jack personal and professional life–even the fact that his son is allergic to peanuts (leading to the inevitable scene in which the rotter menacingly dangles a suspect cookie in front of the little twerp)–he somehow neglected to notice that the older computer devices needed for the heist to come off were removed a week earlier in anticipation of the upcoming merger. However, instead of retreating in sheer embarrassment, Bill insists that Jack find another method of bypassing the security and, after a number of digressions–including one long and fruitless escape attempt (utilizing that remote-controlled car) and an equally fruitless bit in which Bill forces Jack to cruelly fire his loyal assistant in a highly attention-getting manner at the exact point when it would probably be better if he maintained a low profile–Jack figures out how to pull it off in an incredibly byzantine manner that involves the I-Pod and a cell phone camera that I would not recommend that you attempt at home anytime soon.

Mind you, all of this occurs during the staid and predictable half of the film and it is at this point that things get truly deranged. When Jack finally figures out that the thieves have devised things in such a way that it will look as if he stole the money himself and fled the country, he leaps into action in the way that any pushing-sixty security expert for a mid-sized Seattle bank worth his salt would by suddenly developing an ability to overpower and kill a armed thug half his age with his bare hands and crawling around on the roof and ledge of a tall building in order to break in without being detected. (Perhaps a little dizzy and light-headed after such exertions, I guess we can almost forgive this “security expert” from the faux-pas of entering an airport terminal–don’t ask–without first remembering to remove the gun he is carrying.) And then there is the finale, a sequence which is so bizarrely conceived and executed–there is an out-of-nowhere appearance by what the Greeks might have called the “pickax ex machina” if they had spent their days writing crappy action thrillers instead of those darn tragedies and even that isn’t the silliest stretch–that there is a part of me that almost wants to recommend the film to those viewers who might be amused by the sheer jaw-dropping insanity on display.

However, the rest of the film fails to match up to the screwiness of those final reels and for too much of the running time, it come across as the kind of generic junk that you and I have both seen a hundred times before. In fact, the entire Joe Forte screenplay seems to have be compiled from chunks of earlier, better films that have been inelegantly jammed together to create a “new” story–even casual moviegoers will recognize elements from “Ransom,” “Hostage,” “The Desperate Hours,” “Panic Room” and such previous Ford vehicles as “The Fugitive” and “Air Force One.” (Even TV’s “24” is raided here as Mary Lynn Rajskub turns up playing yet another geek-babe who works miracles on her computer for a guy named Jack.) To be fair, all of those titles I have cited have premises and plot contrivances that are just as ludicrous as the ones on display here. The difference is that those films were made by directors who injected enough style and flair so that viewers were too caught up in the action to notice the nonsense. Inexplicably, “Firewall” was directed by Richard Loncraine, a man who has done some interesting work in the past (such as the trippy cult title “Brimstone and Treacle” and a striking WW II-era version of “Richard III” with Ian McKellan) but who goes through his pace so leadenly here that it seems as if he has never even actually watched an action film anytime in the last 30-odd years.

At this point, it isn’t even worth noting anymore how Ford once again goes through his action paces with nothing more than a gruff monotone, a grim demeanor and a determination to show that a man his age can still do the rougher stunts even while inevitably demonstrating that perhaps they shouldn’t–at this point, Ford has pretty much become the modern-day Charlton Heston. No, the genuinely shocking and disappointing performance here comes from Virginia Madsen. A couple of decades ago, she was Hollywood’s hot new face until films such as “Electric Dreams” and “Dune” tanked and while she might have become a huge star in the 1950's, where people like John Huston would have been able to find a proper setting for her combination of blonde beauty and ability to play classy or sassy at the drop of a hat, she found herself relegated to the direct-to-cable wilderness. (She did get a nice supporting role as a scared witness in “The Rainmaker” and while most viewers may have dismissed them as lurid trash, she was great in the B-movie gems “The Hot Spot” and “Candyman.”) Finally, she got a dream role in Alexander Payne’s “Sideways” and the critical and popular response to the film and her Oscar-nominated performance jump-started her career. With her combination of talent and considerable beauty (like Diane Lane, she is one of those actresses who seems to get more and more attractive with the passing of time), she should be in a position to have her pick of roles and what does she get to do for her first post-“Sideways” gig? The kind of boring “wife” role that she might have turned down for being useless even during the leaner times–a role so uninteresting, in fact, that I became convinced at one point that there had to be some kind of shocking plot twist involving her true motivations because there could be no other explanation as to why they would get her for an otherwise nothing role that would seem more appropriate for a mid-level TV performer to tackle during a hiatus.

Last year, you will recall, there was much discussion in the industry about the alleged “box-office slump” as one high-priced film after another either failed to live up to expectations or just bombed outright. Although the studios were quick to pin the blame on any number of extraneous elements–such as the increased popularity of video games and the rapidly shrinking window between theatrical and video releases–one of the biggest reasons for the slump was the simple fact that the studios have been making bland and formulaic product for too long and audiences finally began to rebel against such films by ignoring them instead of succumbing to their omnipresent ad campaigns. A film like “Firewall” suggests that Hollywood hasn’t quite learned its lesson yet and if a piece of junk like this is any indication, it seems that we can probably start the slump talk again early this year.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=13934&reviewer=389
originally posted: 02/10/06 15:50:13
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User Comments

9/24/10 PAUL SHORTT OCCASIONALLY EXCITING BUT MUDDLED 2 stars
7/15/09 R.W. Welch Formulaic hostage flick has little spark. A skipper. 2 stars
8/12/08 Shaun Wallner Loved it Harrison Ford is great! 5 stars
6/03/08 mike somewhat interesting. I felt like I've seen too many movies like this though 3 stars
5/04/08 Jack Sommersby Ridiculous, lame, and boring to boot, this so-called thriller is a D.O.A. 2 stars
4/30/08 mr.mike Far-fetched , but scores with tense atmosphere and action 4 stars
10/07/07 Meggo This was complete crap. Horrible. Doesn't deserve 1 star. 1 stars
8/21/07 Matt An old story dressed up in 21st century technology, but it's worth half a look. 3 stars
6/09/07 Steve Newman It was OK - Ford looks a very old man now, retire the poor bastard 3 stars
12/05/06 gRant KadE the movie was nice...more on prvacy event, their lots of new gadgets like GPS .. 3 stars
10/02/06 Chris Simpson Dire. A very bad rental. Clapped out Harrison does the haggard, care-worn good guy routine. 1 stars
9/19/06 Aldo Its not orginal but i found it Highly entertaining 4 stars
9/17/06 hector its worth a look not so bad as everybody rated it , its good 4 stars
7/31/06 CarolJude Haven't I seen this one before about 10 times? 2 stars
7/31/06 JeromeBosch WOW! Harrison Ford playing Harrison Ford! Unreal!!! 1 stars
6/09/06 Shukara Griffin I feel like they were trying to push a bit much.This is the same style of film . 3 stars
6/05/06 Jeff Anderson Weak & extremely witless(even for the commanding Ford). A sad waste of Madsen's talents! 1 stars
6/03/06 Rowsdower I yawned thirty seven times during this garbage. 1 stars
4/01/06 tc Not about firewalls, not a computer thriller, just a cliched kidnap movie 3 stars
3/11/06 Josh Standlee Fuck this!!! Bill Cox is the worst villain EVER! Fuck!!! 1 stars
3/02/06 Adam Even though I knew that this is going to be a boring shit, I stil went to see Mr. Ford. 1 stars
2/15/06 Mike V I'm pretty sure Harrison Fors has made this movie 3 or four times. 2 stars
2/14/06 Corinne I actually enjoyed this movie. It wasn't oscar-worthy, but it wasn't crap either. :) 3 stars
2/14/06 Ole Man Bourbon Another tedious, tiresome hostage movie. Ford needs something better to do. 2 stars
2/12/06 Fran Totally agree with Scott 2 stars
2/12/06 Perry Mason Much better than I thought it would be. Harrison still kicks ass. 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  10-Feb-2006 (PG-13)
  DVD: 06-Jun-2006

UK
  31-Mar-2006

Australia
  02-Mar-2006




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