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film review *1/2: A Picture Not Worth Protecting

Harrison Ford Can...t Secure Broken ...Firewall...

By Kevin Der


Directed by Richard Loncraine

Written by Joe Forte

Starring Harrison Ford, Virginia Madsen, Paul Bettany

Produced by Armyan Bernstein, Basil Iwanyk, Jonathan Shestack

Rated PG-13

Opens Today

Harrison Ford has made some pretty bad movies recently. My favorite (and I mean favorite film to mock) is “Six Days, Seven Nights,” in which Ford plays a pilot who’s stranded on a remote island and terrorized by sea pirates. “Firewall” continues in the same absurdist vein while recalling elements of Ford’s good movies of ages past like “The Fugitive” and “Air Force One.” Boasting equivocal baddies, a potboiler script, and cookie cutter performances, it even tries to be tech savvy, but apparently they should have hired the consultants from “24” instead. Throw in product placement for iPods and we’ve got a film that’ll see the second-run theaters by Valentine’s Day.

Ford plays Jack Stanfield, a software security expert at a local high-tech bank. He’d rather not work in the bank’s well-lit offices, instead preferring the darker, “authorized personnel only” backrooms, where nerdy hackers in suits protect the bank’s digital vaults from network intruders. When his family is taken hostage in its own home by would-be bank robbers, Stanfield is forced to help the baddies steal money electronically or else they’ll kill the kids. Only, he doesn’t do what they want. He’s later framed for murder and has to go on the run. I know, damn it, the Academy snubbed this one for best original screenplay.

A great deal of acting talent is wasted for this picture. Ford usually looks desperate or confused, covered in the blood of a bad guy he just conked with a blender. A few camera shots seemed so familiar I kept wanting to call him Mr. President. Virginia Madsen, who won over hearts as the complicated oenophile in “Sideways,” is reduced to the role of crying wife and mother. Madsen can’t be blamed for the wooden role, only the fact that she took it. Then there’s Paul Bettany, who delivered marvelous performances as John Nash’s friend in “A Beautiful Mind” and the ship’s doctor in “Master and Commander.” As the villain, Bettany fills the shoes as well as he can, turning from a cold-blooded hostage-taker with the air (and attire) of a businessman to irrational killer. He also yells at his men a lot. Unfortunately, good effort plus crappy role equals crappy performance.

To appeal to the college crowd, “Firewall” has many artificial scenes to showcase high-tech gadgets. Stanfield (and everyone else in the movie) runs his system on dual Dell ultra-sharp monitors, but he has to do it while running Windows. Need to find some incriminating files? Use the speedy Windows search feature. Gotta find a way to scan the text from a CRT? No problem, just hook up an iPod to fax machine components, take the photo sensor arm and tape it to the monitor, and use image processing software (that Stanfield just wrote) to recognize and parse the grainy text!

Unless something great comes along, Harrison Ford’s career is essentially over, merely reliant on name power to finance and attract. When it comes to “Firewall,” just pick your favorite Harrison Ford quote — “Don’t get excited!” … “Keep your eyes shut!” … “Here’s where the fun begins!” Wait, not that last one, unless it’s at the movie’s expense.