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02/14/2006 - FIREWALL

FIREWALL by Tom McCurrie

To paraphrase a famous saying, movies are like life, with all the boring bits cut out. So movies aren't supposed to be real. But it's important for movies to be realistic, for we must believe the movie is actually happening to emotionally invest in the story. So how does the new Harrison Ford thriller FIREWALL stack up? Unfortunately, it's life with all the realistic bits cut out.

Written by Joe Forte and directed by Richard Loncraine (WIMBLEDON), FIREWALL has more problems than a lack of realism. For one thing, its plot (Ford's security expert is forced to commit a crime to save his family) is pretty stale, already used in films ranging from 1973's THE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE to last year's HOSTAGE. It also has a very sluggish opening act, but this may have more to do with the demands of movie marketing than the movie itself. While Ford doesn't learn he has to rob his own bank until a half-hour in, the audience already knows he has to do just that from the numerous commercials and trailers for FIREWALL. So for the first thirty minutes, we're waiting for Ford to catch up, making that section of the story drag terribly. Of course, there are the cliches that rear their head every time a family is held hostage in the movies -- the henchman with a heart of gold, the little kid with a medical problem, both of which were last seen in PANIC ROOM.

But it's the lack of those "realistic bits" that truly sinks FIREWALL. Contrivances and coincidences pile up, straining credibility in a big way: a collection agent blurts out that Ford owes him money just loud enough for the whole office to hear, making it easy for Ford's co-workers to suspect him of robbery later; a bad guy conveniently isn't looking when Ford moves a surveillance camera; chief baddie Paul Bettany is clever enough to unearth every detail of Ford's personal and professional life, but doesn't realize the bank's pending merger could have an effect on his plans to rob the place; Ford shows up at his friend's apartment right before he is murdered, then picks up the murder weapon and runs out the front door of the building so witnesses can tag him as the main suspect; Ford has wireless internet in the mountains where there is nary a soul, never mind an access point, in sight; Ford's dog just happens to wear a collar that can be tracked via GPS...the list goes on longer than the movie.

However, FIREWALL's biggest contrivance is casting Ford in the lead. Being just shy of 64 (and looking it), Ford isn't quite believable as a man of action anymore. Only in Hollywood could a man in his 60s go mano a mano with an opponent 30 years his junior and still come out on top. Nevertheless, Ford breathes so heavily during the climactic action sequence that I was worried he was going to have a stroke before he was able to rescue his family. Speaking of which, that family (a wife twenty years younger, children nine and fifteen respectively) appears way too young for a man of Ford's age, yet another plausibility issue that takes us out of the "reality" of the movie.

The only thing that makes FIREWALL tolerable is Bettany's performance as the heavy. (The rest of the talented supporting cast, led by Virginia Madsen and Robert Forster, are wasted in one-dimensional roles.) Bettany breathes a suave malice into his underwritten villain, making him a bad guy you love to hate so much you remain at least somewhat invested in the story.

A movie has to be a reasonable facsimile of life for us to become emotionally involved. FIREWALL, unfortunately, is more a reasonable facsimile of bad filmmaking.

Responses, comments and general two-cents worth can be E-mailed to gillis662000@yahoo.com.

(Note: For all those who missed my past reviews, they're now archived on Hollywoodlitsales.com. Just click the link on the main page and it'll take you to the Inner Sanctum. Love them or Hate them at your leisure!)

A graduate of USC's School of Cinema-Television, Tom McCurrie has worked as a development executive, story analyst, screenwriter and teacher of screenwriting. He lives in Los Angeles and is currently working on his first novel.


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