Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Illustration for article titled Firewall

Harrison Ford's Firewall character is clearly the busiest bank employee in history, not to mention the most efficient. In the film's first five minutes or so, he foils a hacker, touches base with each of his significant co-workers, establishes that his perfect wife (Virginia Madsen) and obnoxious children are spending a quiet week at home together, antagonizes the executive handling his bank's impending merger with a larger chain, and generally sets up every plot point that's going to come into play over the next hour and a half. It's almost admirable how neatly the film's entire potential gets packed into those initial scenes, from Ford's personal ethos to the triggers for half a dozen little plot twists and turns. But while Firewall rivals Die Hard for narrative streamlining, watching all the pieces drop snugly into place can feel more like watching a Tetris game than like a film.

Essentially merging the heist, home-invasion, and conspiracy-thriller genres into one overstuffed story, Firewall follows Ford as his family is captured by a group of ruthlessly well-organized goons led by Paul Bettany, who intends to extort Ford into cooperating with a high-tech bank-robbery scheme. Naturally, plans go awry—some due to Ford's previously established skills, some due to simple bad luck—and Bettany and Ford wind up competing for control of the constantly changing situation. One by one, characters and situations introduced in those opening scenes suddenly become important, as Ford flails through one tactic after another.

Unfortunately, those tactics all seem to come from other movies. Firewall cribs bits and pieces from a lengthy list of films, starting with The Desperate Hours and moving on to Nick Of Time, Panic Room, Swordfish, and Ford's recent string of angry-white-man action films. About the only surprise is that unlike most action movies, Firewall doesn't require Ford to do much that a man his age couldn't manage, apart from take a beating that would kill a horse, then get up and keep swinging. But the film also doesn't require anything from him as an actor, and Bettany and Madsen are similarly wasted on rote roles: He alternately smiles and glowers, she screams and clutches her children. Everything here is a known quantity except one question that could have been inspired by a Tootsie Roll Pop commercial: How many twists does it take to finally, at long last, get to the predictable ending?