Same Harrison, different title

Reeling it in

Posted: Thursday, February 23, 2006


  "Firewall" Warner Bros. 1 hour, 40 minutes AP Photo/Warner Bros. Pictures/D


Warner Bros.

1 hour, 40 minutes

AP Photo/Warner Bros. Pictures/D

What’s this? Harrison Ford? Playing a tough, successful, but vulnerable everyman who, when his family is placed in peril, discovers just how far he is willing to go to protect the ones he loves? Can this be right? What a stretch! What depth! How unique! Wow. “Firewall” — something unlike anything you’ve ever seen.

If you hadn’t gathered by now, I’m being sarcastic.

“Firewall,” which isn’t bad, actually, is a carbon copy of a million other solid, but absolutely predictable thrillers.

For Harrison Ford, you’ve seen this exact character, or not-so-subtle variations of it in everything from “Patriot Games” to “The Devil’s Own,” though the closest comparison is with “Air Force One,” where the only difference was that Ford was a tough, successful, but vulnerable president.

Ford plays Jack Stanfield, head of tech security of a large banking firm. He’s financially comfortable, with a beautiful architect wife and two charmingly typical children, one of whom has a — gasp — peanut allergy.

(Flash! Roundtable brainstorm session for “Firewall!” How do we up the terror ante for our hero? Come on people, think! Got it! Give one of the kids a potentially fatal ailment that the bad guys can exploit in the film’s second act. Brilliant! That’s never been done before ... .)

Enter dapper, pale Brit Paul Bettany, as a sophisticated bank robber at the head of a ragtag team of baddies. There’s the icy-cold second-in-command, the geeky, in-over-his-head techie, and the barely in control tough guy.

Points to you if you can figure out which one will soon be whining, “But you said no one was going to get hurt!”

As you have probably guessed by now, the bad guys kidnap the Stanfield family in order to force poor Jack to hack into the system he designed and transfer $100 million to an offshore account in the Cayman Islands.

Do you think the Caymans or Zurich offer banking services to normal people, or is it just to supervillains? Can you get just a plain old checking account, or is it only for embezzlers who keep their account number on microfilm hidden in their molars?

Anyway, you’ve probably also guessed that things don’t go as planned, things get messy and a quivering, teary Jack will rasp, “Please. Please don’t hurt my family.”

I enjoyed “Firewall,” just like I enjoyed “Panic Room” and “Patriot Games” and “Air Force One” and a dozen other movies like them. They are entertaining diversions and offer solid thrills and suspense.

What irritates me is that, at this point, Harrison Ford should be beyond this. He is inarguably the biggest action star in the world. He could make any movie, and while his participation certainly elevates this film, it’s a throwaway. Anyone could have done it.

Where is “Indiana Jones 4?” Where are the small, meaty roles that could remind people that he’s actually an actor? Where are the risky roles? Ford doesn’t need to make this movie anymore.

“Firewall” isn’t doing blockbuster business, and it’s been lambasted by the critics. But all that griping is unfair, especially considering that other typical Ford films often are praised. All that bashing is merely an outlet for this frustration at the string of easy roles Harrison Ford has chosen lately. “Firewall” is certainly no worse, but it’s no different either. Grade: B-

“Firewall” is rated PG-13 for typical action violence, typical family peril and typical language, including the requisite single dropping of the F-bomb.

Chris Jenness is a freelance graphic designer, artist and movie buff who lives in Nikiski.

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