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Firewall

Firewall

Rated PG-13, 105 min. Directed by Richard Loncraine. Starring Harrison Ford, Virginia Madsen, Paul Bettany, Alan Arkin, Robert Patrick, Robert Forster, Mary Lynn Rajskub.

REVIEWED By Marrit Ingman, Fri., Feb. 17, 2006

It starts off with a slick, split-screen bang, but this high tech heist thriller is like a For Dummies guide to the genre: Corporate family man (Ford) and his family are trapped in their waterfront Plexiglas palace while a who’s who of Hollywood hackers tries to break into a bank’s digital coffers. The son (Jimmy Bennett of Polar Express) has a dire peanut allergy, so you can probably imagine how the filmmakers intend to endanger him. Other reviews have heaped accolades upon Madsen, who makes her "good woman" role (“I already have a hobby – taking care of you!”) into something far more primal and interesting, like a curly blond mama bear, and the supporting cast is also fine. Bettany is appropriately oily as the gang’s Saville Row ringleader, and Arkin and Patrick square off nicely as the bank’s old-school CEO and its new buyer. Ford, on the other hand, seems to have been beamed into the movie using holographic technology. (Loncraine has set him to “glower.”) Gearheads will thrill to watch the crew assemble their network, and there are several ostensibly tense moments set inside a vaulted server farm, but the movie lacks the emotional appeal it needs to really stand out, even when the script (by novice scribe Joe Forte) puts the family’s shaggy mutt in harm’s way. The filmmakers seem too committed to a PG-13 rating, so they don’t take any real risks with the kids – commendable on the one hand, but deadly to the thriller on the other. (There are some bloody and violent moments, but, overall, the movie just dutifully proceeds from Point A to Point B.) Nor does the family have any particularly interesting complications within their own dynamic; they’re movie-perfect and would be as dry as crackers if Madsen weren’t around. (Note to the filmmakers: close proximity to Paul Bettany excites 14-year-old iPod girls.) There’s a bit wherein Patrick (who is quite capable outside of his corporate-sleazebag métier and should probably be the star of the film) chases Ford’s classy family sedan through a parking garage, and for a brief and shining moment he seems ready to morph into the T-1000 Terminator and really get the movie going. Alas, no. Thoughtful viewers may appreciate the movie’s intermittent stabs at engaging conflict within the corporate culture – it’s the suits vs. the geeks in rainy Seattle! – but mostly it relies upon the machinery of its plot to generate thrills. Too bad the plot needs an upgrade.
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