When I invited my friend, Tony, to attend the advanced screening of “Firewall,” he somberly stated, “I’m a simple man. I don’t know much about movies. But I do know that if Harrison Ford is in it, it’s going to be bad. Really, really bad.” That night, I left the theater wishing I had heeded Tony’s imparted knowledge.“Firewall” is another “Die Hard” clone. A computer security guy (Harrison Ford) has to defend his family from a bunch of Bank Thieves/Kidnappers who want the computer guy to help them rob a bank of zillions of dollars. Ford must comply with their demands while attempting to foil them at every turn.
It’s rare to see a movie so crammed with techno babble. Characters ramble on about terminals, data transfers, and security while insulting the audience’s intelligence and patience. An ipod and a fax machine are combined to form a sophisticated data collection device. A bank employs all the latest electronic security programs but there is not a security guard in sight.
This is the only thriller in the history of thrillers that relies on a high-tech dog collar for its climax. (To be fair to the challenged screenplay, the dog-collar-technology from the film does exist in real life.)
Techno-stupidity is not the worst offense of “Firewall” though. That dubious achievement belongs to Harrison Ford’s performance. It pains me to say this, but do we continue to watch Harrison Ford because he’s a charismatic performer, or do we watch him because we desperately long for the tiniest hint of what he brought to the screen fifteen years ago?
His acting is flat. His dialogue reading is flat. His flat expressions are flat. Occasionally he mumbles. When did Indiana Jones turn into the cranky old guy at the end of the street who would yell at you for playing in his yard?
Perhaps realizing that Harrison Ford has been waning for twelve years, the producers hired two actors whose careers are waxing. Virginia Madsen is cast as the architect-wife of the computer security guy, and Paul Bettany takes on the role of the head robber/kidnapper.
I wonder how annoyed Virginia Madsen was about the fact that all she was allowed to do was sniffle, tell the kids that everything is going to be okay, and get repeatedly tied up and duct-taped. I guess since the only significant work she was getting before being rediscovered in “Sideways” was guest spots on shows like “CSI: Miami,” she’s probably just happy to be taking home a substantial paycheck.
Paul Bettany doesn’t get treated any better. His character is supposed to be a master criminal, but somehow he doesn’t quite know how to handle Harrison Ford’s repeated attempts to escape.
Ford does something sneaky. Bettany threatens to break his son’s knee. Ford attempts to send a secret message. Bettany makes his son have a peanut allergy attack. Ford messes with their video surveillance: Bettany shoots one of his own men. I wouldn’t trust this “mastermind” to manage a RadioShack, let alone rob a bank.“Firewall” has a lot in common with spam: It’s unwelcome, its message is fuzzy and poorly written, and it’s more annoying than informative or entertaining. Delete this movie from your life without viewing it.