You have to wonder what happened to Harrison Ford. Throughout the ’80s and ’90s, he was one of the most bankable actors in Hollywood and arguably the biggest star in the world. However, it seems that the assortment of recent films featuring this once larger-than-life icon, who played Han Solo and Indiana Jones, have dramatically declined in both novelty and general appeal. It’s not that the films in which Ford is appearing are necessarily awful. They simply fail to meet a certain standard of quality that should be expected of an actor of his caliber, an actor who seemed to deliver consistently from his “Star Wars” days straight through to “Air Force One” in 1997. The new technological thriller, “Firewall,” is no exception to what seems to be the new standard. It proves to be yet another entry to Ford’s meager list of credits that which to have piled up over the last decade.
Despite containing a promising premise, Richard Loncraine’s 21st century ransom tale essentially offers nothing new or unique to the action genre. Ford plays Jack Stanfield, a banker and family man who, as expected, will ultimately turn out to be the hero we expect him to be. Of course, that heroic nature will not come to the forefront until he has been pushed to the edge – the kidnapping of his family proves to be a fairly good shove in the right direction. Paul Bettany plays the obligatory conniving evil villain who, along with his moronic team of computer savvy henchmen, invade the Stanfield home, taking Jack’s wife, Beth (Virginia Madsen) and kids hostage. In return for their safety, Jack is forced to breech his bank’s highly advanced security system and forward vast sums of money into the bad guys’ bank accounts. In some ways, this film could be considered innovative for using a completely computerized bank robbery as its central crime. However, that really isn’t the main focus of the plot. We know Jack is probably going to defeat the bad guys and get his family back. The question then becomes one of how he is going to accomplish such a feat with the immense stakes against him.
The strength and determination seen in Ford’s character, once again, never bores its audience, even if he would be better off exhibiting these qualities in a more gripping production. Bettany is also fun to watch as the disgustingly wicked antagonist, who we will be more than satisfied to see take on the intrepid Ford when that time inevitably comes. The rest of the cast, however, seems to just get in the way. Madsen is under-used in her role as the kidnapped wife, doing her best to protect her two children. Mary Lynn Rajskub appears out-of-place in her part as Ford’s smug, but ever loyal, assistant. Likewise, it is baffling why such A-list supporting actors as Robert Forester and Alan Arkin seem to superfluously crowd this, at best, average film.
While the acting really isn’t the problem, it does nothing to bring about a solution to making this film amount to anything better than it ultimately does. However, if you are honestly intrigued by such a seemingly compelling plot, or if you have some allegiance to Harrison Ford films (in spite of his many recent blunders), then this thriller may be worth your while. While it may be unremarkable and forgettable, “Firewall” does manage to offer a familiar dose of the good-versus-evil dialectic that, with an outstanding actor like Ford at the forefront, never fails to excite.