February 16, 2006

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FILM: Firewall (PG-13)
by Amy Diaz

Harrison Ford sucks the joy out of life quicker than an IRS audit in the family-in-peril action flick Firewall.

Ford might be worth a bajillion dollars, a swinging single and a beloved movie icon but he wears the facial expression of somebody who’s just been kicked in the nuts by life. Or maybe his shoes are pinchy at the toes. Or the salmon he had last night just isn’t sitting well with him. Whatever his ailment, he plods through Firewall like he’s on a death march. He has the same dull look of existential pain of a man who has sat outside a dressing room for three hours holding a purse and a bag full of newly purchased shoes he knows he can’t afford.

And this is all before anything bad happens.

We never really learn why Jack Stanfield (Ford) is a man of deep angst that shows itself on the lines of his permanently frowning face. After all, he has a good job as head of security at a bank, a lovely home constructed by his architect wife (Virginia Madsen) and a movie-perfect family. He even has the potential of a better job and meets with Brian Cox (Paul Bettany) to discuss some vague business-investment-something possibility. After the meeting, Brian follows Jack to his car and jumps in. Hey, check out this picture I have of your wife screaming in terror, Brian says to Jack. Ah, says Jack, so there’s no job, then?

They drive out to Jack’s house and such begins an elaborate hostage-taking ordeal that has half a dozen men watching the Stanfield family, surveillance cameras watching their every moment and all communication with the outside world monitored. All you have to do is plug this hard drive into your bank’s servers, help us wire a bit of money off shore and, quicker than you can say Bob’s-your-uncle, we’ll be off, Brian says. We’ve seen your faces, you’ll never let us live, we’re all doomed, Jack says. Man, way to make a bad situation even more unpleasant, Jack’s wife says.

The plot to the world’s slowest bank robbery unfolds as expected with both robbers and Stanfields hitting on unexpected snags (unexpected by them; we could schedule their snags on our dayplanners two weeks in advance). Eventually, Jack gets fed up with following the robbers’ instructions and, because all the sneaking around has made his employers suspect him of wrongdoing, when he decides to take matters into his own hands, he has to go it alone.

Well, not totally alone. Mary Lynn Rajskub (Chloe from 24) shows up playing Jack’s secretary. She offers him a minimal amount of help and seems to exist solely to get some of our good feelings about 24 to rub off on Firewall.

Firewall’s plot isn’t original or exciting but it’s not, strictly speaking, all that bad either. Done with actors who didn’t look like they’d rather be in dental surgery, it might have had a shot at being a better-than-average little action movie. But Ford acts as though not just his character but he himself has a gun to his head, forcing him through the paces of this dreary film. C-

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