'Firewall'


Paul Bettany and Harrison Ford in "Firewall," which opens Friday. (Warner Bros.)
Harrison Ford's recent box-office track record hasn't been good. Though his history as Han Solo and Indiana Jones is enough to keep him (for now) as one of the all-time most bankable stars, his films since then have been hit or miss.

For every "Witness" or "Presumed Innocent," there has been a "Random Hearts" or "Hollywood Homicide." Even a mostly good film like "K-19" wasn't a Ford vehicle.

 

So, mid-level hopes for "Firewall" are met and exceeded. The action/thriller starring Ford and Paul Bettany, which opens nationwide today, isn't great, but good. It's certainly one of Ford's better movies in recent years.

 

The plot: Jack Stanfield (Ford) is vice-president of security for a Seattle-based bank chain. A criminal named Bill Cox (Bettany) decides to use Stanfield's expertise and access to transfer funds electronically from the bank's richest customers into Cox's offshore accounts. Cox gets Stanfield's number by holding his wife and two kids hostage.

 

"Firewall" evolves into a game of cat and mouse, with Stanfield trying to rescue his family while meeting Cox's demands.

 

The middle of the film drags a bit as Stanfield does too much standing around and thinking, but the third act blossoms and—without overstating the case—even feels a bit Hitchcockian. Ford gets a chance to go mano a mano several times here, and that might be what he does best in an Everyman sort of way.

 

What we need less of, however, is Ford using his gruff voice, which he turns on in verbally tense situations.

 

Bettany is a good creep, and his role here really heightens anticipation for seeing him in "The Da Vinci Code" in May, where he plays a self-flagellating albino monk.

 

"Firewall," directed by Richard Loncraine ("Wimbledon"), has a bit of a techno feel, as you would expect from a movie about computer hacking. You'll understand some lines—"Online banking is where the business is heading"—and not others—"An IPS signature that blackholes the pattern."

 

There are some clever uses of everyday technologies like MP3 players, cell phones and fax machines, and brands like Chrysler and Dell certainly don't go unnoticed.

 

Writer Joe Forte throws in some funny lines here and there, but the script doesn't sizzle and pop. It does, however, certainly draw a distinction between family man Stanfield and the increasingly cold-blooded Cox, and it ends with a bang.

 

Some of Ford's better post-Solo/post-Indiana movies have featured him as a man of action protecting his family (i.e. "Patriot Games," "Air Force One"). "Firewall" plants a firm foot in that arena, putting Ford back to what he seems to do best—the leather jacket, whip and fedora excluded, of course.

 

Cliff Vaughn is culture editor for EthicsDaily.com.

 

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some intense sequences of violence. Reviewer's Note: Also some language, and several fatal head shots to various characters.

 

Director: Richard Loncraine

 

Writer: Joe Forte

 

Cast: Jack Stanfield: Harrison Ford; Bill Cox: Paul Bettany; Beth Stanfield: Virginia Madsen; Sandra: Beverley Breuer.

 

The movie's official Web site is here.

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