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Firewall Review

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Jack Stanfield (Ford) is a computer security specialist employed to keep hackers out of a Seattle-based bank’s computer systems. When his wife Beth (Madsen) and children are kidnapped by Bill Cox (Bettany), he’s forced to break through his own firewalls a

★★★★★

From the opening credits of Firewall, you just know that Virginia Madsen’s in trouble: she’s in a Harrison Ford movie, for Christ’s sake, and she’s playing his wife. All she has to do is take
a peek at her co-star’s CV to realise a grim fate awaits...

In 1992’s Patriot Games, his character’s family are targeted for revenge by Irish terrorists; in ’93’s The Fugitive, he’s accused of killing his wife; in ’97’s Air Force One, the wife and sprogs are kidnapped by hijackers; and even in ’99’s Random Hearts he lost his other half in a plane crash — and that was a love story. So there’s scant surprise when Madsen, as his architect wife in a beautiful home with fabulous kids living in a dream community, becomes Ford’s latest spousal victim in Firewall. Unfortunately, scant surprise sums up the bulk of this slick yet hollow thriller from British director Richard Loncraine (Wimbledon, My House In Umbria).

Firewall covers disappointingly predictable territory for an actor of Ford’s skills and reputation, a by-committee affair that’s carefully checked off a prerequisite set of guidelines for a contemporary American actioner. The loving family in peril, the hi-tech problems and higher-tech solutions, the British bad guy, the battle against time, the fist-flying finale... the film serves up a steady stream of rote images and unsurprising twists.

Front and centre is Ford, who surely must have felt he’s been here before. However, as Jack Stanfield he turns in as fine a performance as the role allows, parlaying effortlessly from happy and loving husband, through hapless victim, to victorious fighter. Saving Firewall from straight-to-video territory, he’s obviously comfortable in this kind of a role, and still capable of (just about) looking like fighting back is actually an option, despite his 64 years.

Similarly, Paul Bettany looks born to play the sophisticated villain with a dead-cold heart — though the role itself once again fails him. Motives are cast aside in favour of cliché and you struggle to care. Though it’s Madsen who gets the rawest of deals — stuck at home with the kids with her mouth taped up is a prodigious waste of talent. If her award-winning role in Sideways was a leg-up to this, she should consider heading back to the wine country for a bottle of the hard stuff…

A formulaic, it’ll-do action-thriller, Firewall does what you’d expect it to well enough but fails to fully exploit the skills of its talented cast — particularly the leading man.

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