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STUDIO: Warner Bros.
RUNNING TIME: 104 Minutes
• Discussion with the star and director
• Screenwriter featurette
"A name brand action thriller that will challenge no one. A safe bet."
Harrison Ford. Paul Bettany. Virginia Madsen. Robert Forster. Robert Patrick. A dog with a GPS tracking device.
Ford has always been his own unique sort of movie star. A little Bogart. A
little McQueen. A little Henry Fonda. A little Clark Gable. Little slices from
the best sources possible filtered through something that made a regular old
carpenter with a scar on his chin into a legend that redefined the working man’s
concept of an action hero for all time. Time takes its toll on the people we
watch in different ways. Some bend a little to it while others fight it as hard
as they can and no amount of cosmetic surgery or strategic lighting and makeup
is beneath them. Sadly, not everyone can be a Clint Eastwood. Case in point:
Burt “Jan Michael Vincent with a bankroll” Reynolds.
people who made the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s their personal playground have reached
the years where their grandchildren know what a condom is and the oppressive
forces of time have made traditional action roles an impossibility. Harrison
Ford seems to have stayed fresh for many years more than anyone could expect but
now he seems to be vying for the same sort of “wealthy and slightly bloated
businessman gets himself into deep shit” pile of roles as Michael Douglas. In
fact, it was Douglas who benefited most from Ford’s tinkering with the script
one of many that most likely crossed both their desks.
"Sweet Denholm Elliott’s buttocks, I thought the firewall was figurative!"
Firewall is one of those extremely safe
films that exist solely for the crowd of people who want their moviegoing
experience to be without incident. The ones who go to Chili’s, because they are
sure no one in their party will be forced to make a tough menu decision. The
ones who stick to the American beers and Mondavi or Beringer wines, because you
just can’t trust the Italians after all that business in the 40’s. The ones who
arrived in Ford Explorers listening to Josh Groban, but only after discussing
how the curly-haired singer would have fared under Simon Cowell’s merciless
criticisms. In short, the unassuming middle class citizens that make
nation and at times an easy target for less fortunate folks across the drink.
perfectly fine. A film like this is a reward. For actors like Paul Bettany it
allows his hard work in smaller films to be counterbalanced by commerce
projects that’ll keep his wife living happy on the streets of
Same goes for Virginia Madsen, surely enjoying her ATM balance after the career
boost of Sideways. For Harrison Ford, it allows him to play it safe and
stave off the old folks home for another term. It reminds audiences that even
though his Jack Ryan days are over, Ford can still deliver the gritted teeth
and authoritative directives that delivered one last franchise to him. It’s a
way to keep great members of the periphery like Robert Forster and Robert
Patrick in nice threads even though their characters have the arc of a laser
beam. It’s mainstream pap, the kind of which will always be needed to determine
the middle ground for the rest of its genre mates to straddle or defy.
Holy shit, I just realized that Alan Arkin is in this and I don’t know why.
Dating younger women was Harrison’s style. Here he treats his honey Carrie Henn to a little of that ‘ol’ facehugger action’ she had been so sorely missing all these years later.
As far as
pap goes, Firewall ranks in the lower echelon. Even under the direction
of journeyman Richard Loncraine (who was dropped into the chair shortly before
filming began) it feels like very familiar territory and with such an abundance
of hostage films in the public eye it’s really hard to stick out. Bruce Willis’
Hostage ranks as one of the better in recent memory. Ford plays the security
head for a bank which has just been merged into a larger corporation who is
forced to hack into the system of his design by kidnapper Paul Bettany. The
title doesn’t refer to the director of The Taking of
rather the binary barrier protecting the bank from its millions that Ford has
to pry free in order to save his family (featuring Madsen and the expected two
kids and a dog whose collar is read by satellites in outer space). The devil as they say is in the details and its here that
Firewall scuttles any chances for originality by unleashing some of the most
useless and toothless villains I’ve seen in some time. Bettany is a fine actor,
an actor’s actor even. Here he gets to bark orders to a quartet of snotty and menace
deficient cronies, never really doing much to make one worry for the well being
of anyone. With this little to do, even an actor of Bettany’s caliber (see Master
and Commander: The Far Side of the World or A Knight’s Tale for
evidence of his considerable chops) is lost at sea. Other than plugging a minor character
whose death we can predict in the opening credits, his crowning moment of
villainy is, I shit you not, feeding Ford’s kid a snack with contains allergy
inducing peanuts. It’s a little odd to see Bettany basking in the glow of
seeing a scrawny little Ford pup quiver on the ground when he could have easily
gotten the same result with a variety of time tested tactics like punching or
kicking or even an aggressive pillow fight.
dangerous villain in Bettany’s posse, the only one who shows no moments of
weakness, is destroyed in mere seconds by the ramming force of one of the film’s
many Chrysler automobiles. Then he catches fire. Then he dies. I will spoil one
aspect of this film by saying that aside from the peanut eating crisis, no one
on the side of good really loses many hit points. Aside from the one minor
character I mentioned, who will most certainly have to re-roll himself or find
a gifted cleric. It’s harmless in every sense of the word. Subplots are
ignored, characters are tossed when no longer needed (Robert Patrick got the
serious shaft there), and the ones used simply as a device are like automatons
who exist only to serve Ford’s narrative (holy shit, the gospel music guitarist
"I just get to sit here and retain water and they PAY ME?", wondered Patrick.
resulting film (and its heinous poor man’s process driving scenes) is oddly
comforting in its generic splendor. Nothing even dares upset its audience. Not
a sense of danger and not any of the safe performances trapped within. Even
Bettany is a sort of likable guy aside from the kidnapping and gun toting
tendencies. The film even allows our hero to track his enemies by the GPS
positioning system installed ON. HIS. DOG.
Ford is known for being very prickly during the development of a script,
partially leading to the eternal delay of Indiana Jones IV. It’s hard to
wonder if here he just decided that the best way to avoid appearing in a
formula film was to entrench himself in the last place anyone would expect:
smack dab in the most formulaic film possible. Seriously, if you could peel Hostage
and look on its flip side, Firewall would be there. It’s the road that Robert
Frost spoke about not traveling on. It’s so mainstream I expected to be able to
put corn on a hook and catch a rainbow trout.
somehow, despite its utter uncoolness, I watched it without really feeling
sorry for myself or like I was wasting my time. It was no Hollywood Homicide that’s
for sure. So I guess it has that going for it.
Sentinel (which is the Milquetoast’s take on In the Line of Fire)
turns your gears then you will have a nice little bulge in your Dockers for Firewall.
Don Post’s ‘Harrison Ford Action Face" mask was well worth the four $19.99 installments, wearer Tony Anthony remarked.
There is a very tiny chunk of special features to be found on this disc, the primary piece being an odd conversation between Ford and Loncraine. It’s obvious who the boss is between them and there’s a little bit of tension in the air it seems. At the end it seems that they’re on the same page but it certainly has a slightly adversarial vibe to it and it certainly appears that Loncraine isn’t too passionate about the material. I could be way off, but the vibe was certainly one of dysfunctionality. They flat out admit to having no climax well into shooting. One thing, they give away the villain’s fate in this little featurette so steer clear.
There’s also a quick and light little chat with the screenwriter whose first feature film was this one. I was surprised he didn’t thank Final Draft’s autopilot mode, for it surely did the heavy lifting here. If I remember correctly, you hold down ALT-Y and it writes Firewall.
There’s also a trailer for this as well as a giant lovefest for every Superman property created since the dawn of science as well as the tidy first teaser for Bryan Singer’s upcoming tentpole as well as his Superman film.
5.5 out of 10