Reviewed by: The Exile

My heart goes out to Virginia Madsen. First, she had to pretend to be turned on by hobbit impersonator Paul Giamatti in Sideways, and now the stunning 43-year-old is stuck with crinkly old Harrison Ford in Firewall. Though undeniably a testament to the wonders of Centrum Silver and daily injections of stem cells, Ford is still 21 years her senior and visibly clapped out. So in Firewall, when loving wife Beth Stanfield (Madsen) tells husband Jack (Ford), "My hobby is taking care of you," there's not a soul in the audience who won't want to respond, "Amen to that."

Firewall is the cheque Ford cashes every few years, a creaky thriller with less suspense than Reese Witherspoon and an awards ceremony. Aging action stars are as useless to Hollywood as flat-chested women, so for men like Ford. who, let's face it, hasn't done anything of note since 1993's The Fugitive - and that was really Tommy Lee Jones's movie - ways must be found to support wives, both past and future. This is usually achieved by means of the family-in-jeopardy scenario. Sooner or later, all the old dudes have to save their loved ones from thieves, or blackmailers, or run-of-the-mill psychos. Mel Gibson has done it and Bruce Willis does it every couple of years, so step up, Harrison, it's a lot easier than running for governor.

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Ford knows this stuff like the age spots on the backs of his hands. Eighteen years ago, in Polanski's Frantic, he had to rush all over Paris looking for his kidnapped wife. He wears that same face in Firewall - pinched, anxious, mouth like a poodle's rectum - but this time his joints are stiffer and his body is generally less biddable.

As head of network security for a large Seattle bank, Jack bumps into furniture and can scarcely glance over his shoulder without major upper back realignment. Fortunately his assistant, Janet (the marvelous Mary Lynn Rajskub from Fox's 24), is around to make sure Jack is facing the right way when his boss (Alan Arkin) wants to know why a collector from is hanging out in the lobby, demanding Jack pay his $95,000 gambling debt.

While Jack tries to prove he can't tell a full house from a straight flush, five Eurotrash thugs are invading his home and tying up his wife and two children. Their oily leader, Bill Cox (a menacing Paul Bettany), wants Jack to use his techno savvy to transfer huge amounts of money to an offshore account and wires him with a parabolic microphone and teeny camera to make sure he does what he's told. The movie then spends almost half its running time switching back and forth between Jack sitting in front of a computer screen (the aging action star's least threatening adversary) and Beth and the kids being brutalised by villains so generic it's tough to tell them apart.

Directed by Richard Loncraine, who put us to sleep most recently with Wimbledon, Firewall is a formulaic retro-thriller, with no idea how to achieve the techie tension of TV shows like Alias and 24. When Jack finally does get up on his hind legs and fight back, the movie resolves with such silliness the arrival of Superman would not have been a surprise.

As for Ford, being upstaged by an iPod and the family dog may take a while to live down.

Reviewed on: 15 Mar 2006
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Kidnap blackmail thriller has aging action star battling with a computer.
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Director: Richard Loncraine

Writer: Joe Forte

Starring: Harrison Ford, Paul Bettany, Virginia Madsen, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Robert Patrick, Robert Forster, Alan Arkin

Year: 2006

Runtime: 105 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US


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