Bill Cox (Paul Bettany) has conceived the perfect high-tech bank robbery. Instead of trying to hack in to the Landrock Pacific Bank's network himself, he'll force the bank's computer security specialist, Jack Stanfield (Harrison Ford) to do it for him. So Cox takes Stanfield's wife (Virginia Madsen) and their two children hostage and he threatens them with death if Jack fails to do as he's told.
With a storyline that appeals to primal feelings about seeing our families in danger, Firewall is a reasonably gripping thriller. It works. You feel for Harrison Ford, you hate Paul Bettany and you want to see the family reunited. However, it doesn't do anything more than what it says on the tin. It isn't inspired, it doesn't convince you you're watching real people in a credible situation and, with a plot about children in mortal danger, it's more harrowing than entertaining. Neither a straight suspense piece like Collateral and Inside Man nor a pedal-to-the-metal thrill-ride like Cellular and Red Eye, Firewall doesn't find a way to distinguish itself.
Credibility is in very short supply. The big robbery sequence is highly unconvincing - the security expert played by Robert Patrick really ought to figure out what's happening and call the police a lot quicker than he does. What exactly does he think Ford is doing? By the time the story has reached its climax, all believability has gone out the window. Ask yourself afterwards, why do the villains take the family dog?
Firewall's also unoriginal. The concept of a bank employee being forced to rob his own bank is an old one that's merely been given an internet-age makeover. In fact Firewall's director Richard Loncraine has actually made a film based on this concept before - a British thriller from 1988 called Bellman And True.
At sixty-three, Harrison Ford is still a dependable action hero, if a little old to plausibly have young children. It's notable that almost all this spring's crop of action thrillers feature stars the other side of fifty - there's also Bruce Willis in 16 Blocks, Michael Douglas in The Sentinel and Denzel Washington in Inside Man. Basic Instinct 2's Sharon Stone, only forty-eight, is the baby of the bunch. Hollywood really does need to start re-stocking its supply of action heroes.
Paul Bettany has fun playing the Obligatory English Villain. Virginia Madsen is fine, if a trifle over-qualified for the captured-heroine role - is this really the best she could get after her acclaimed, Oscar-nominated work in Sideways? The rest of the cast, which includes Robert Forster as Ford's business partner and Alan Arkin as the bank's manager is generally solid but I think it was a major mistake to cast actress Mary Lynn Rajskub as Ford's secretary and later his helper. Rajskub is known to discerning TV viewers as Chloe from "24". The role she plays here is so similar (Ford's character is even called Jack!) that it's quite distracting. She also serves as a reminder that Firewall is doing basically the same thing the Kiefer Sutherland show does every week and it doesn't work up a fraction of the suspense.