Movie Review: Firewall

By Amy Lamare, February 10, 2006

If you’re looking for escapist fare, Firewall (FIREW) fits the bill nicely. That said, if it feels like a movie you’ve seen before, you’re not far off. It’s a generic thriller filled with generic job titles (“computer security specialist”) and generic situations set up nicely and paid off by a guy about 20 years too old for his role. This film is both formulaic and daringly misanthropic in its use of logic. Trying to be all things to all people is never a good idea, and this film is a prime example of that.

Harrison Ford (HFORD) has plenty of star power, and co-stars Paul Bettany (PBETT) and Virginia Madsen (VMADS) carry plenty of classy box office cache. Yet the chemistry between the three falls flat. Bettany comes off poorly as the sneeringly Euro Trash villain. Madsen does a fine job with the role she has to work with. But she has such a strong and vivid screen presence that, I for one, wanted to see a lot more from her. I’d have preferred her in Ford’s role. That would have worked well, the 40-something hottie kicking butt and saving her kids and AARP card holding husband.

The title Firewall is a misnomer, as nowhere in the movie do they discuss firewalls. So any computer aficionados who might be drawn in by the premise will quickly be turned off. Not only is there no tie to the firewall of the title, the filmmakers make such egregious errors in technological terms, that even I was left scratching my head and thinking: that’s just not possible. Anyway, how many hackers and coders do you know who also are masters of self defense and brute force? The ones I know subscribe more to the “It’s fun to use learning for evil” school of thought rather than “Go ahead, make my day.”

In trying to be all things in all genres, the flick fails. The premise relies on Bettany’s generic Euro villain and his team of crooks terrorizing Ford’s wife and children. But these aren’t just any crooks. These are crooks who’ve done their research, yo. They know everything about the daily routine of this Seattle family. They’ve even got their medical histories down pat. But being so well versed in one thing does not necessarily translate into a perfect crime. For instance, Bettany and his gang are completely unaware that the bank Ford’s character is a computer security specialist for has been taken over by a larger financial institution and Ford no longer has access to the data the crooks seek.

You’d think this would be something they’d have known, right? In fact, it might even have been something reported on, say, MSNBC. Well, this flick, like most of its genre, specializes in plot holes. Oh, I’m sorry, leaps of faith.

Ford is a nerdy computer guy on Viagra, definitely playing against his Han Solo type. But he still mutters his trademark lines in his trademark growl. He may be a fossil, but he is, somewhere beneath the wrinkles and nose hairs, Indiana Jones. The story still would have been more believable with Madsen in the title role. Or Bettany and Ford’s role’s reversed. 30-something Bettany as a computer guru? This we can swallow. Ford, earring or no, just doesn’t do it. Hip grandfather? Maybe. Computer techie? Not so much.

Flaws aside, director Richard Loncraine does a good job sustaining the tension and keeping the audience involved in the story. It’s a popcorn flick, folks. Fine enough to watch, but utterly forgettable the moment you leave the theatre

Firewall opens in wide release on February

This work is the property of Stock Exchange and Amy Lamare. It is not to be reused, reprinted or stolen under any conditions.

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