7/18/07

R016 Firewall

(2006, Crime Drama, color)

Riffers:

Mike Nelson and Kevin Murphy

I hope they show him clean his registry next.

Rating: **

In a nutshell:

High-tech kidnappers force Harrison Ford to rob a bank.

Summary:

Harrison Ford's 'I Will Kill You' face.'Bank security specialist Jack Stansfield (Harrison Ford) has spent a long, hard day protecting customer accounts from cyber crime when a debt collector arrives to demand payment for ninety-five thousand dollars in gambling debts. Jack has never gambled in his life; he realizes his identity has been compromised and asks his security partner to clear it up. His partner agrees, and then introduces him to a man (Paul Bettany) who offers him a better job somewhere else. Jack says he’ll think about it, bids them both goodbye, and heads home.

He gets into his car to find the job offer man waiting with a gun. His name is Cox, and he wants to go home with Jack. At the house, we see Jack’s wife Beth (Virginia Madsen) and their two kids being taken hostage by gun-toting pizza deliverymen. The sinister pizza guys put security cameras all over the house to keep them in. Jack and Cox join them. Jack’s gun is confiscated. Vague demands and specific threats are met with suitably fright-contorted expressions, and everyone goes to bed.

Next day Jack is outfitted with a microphone in his tie and a camera in his pen so that his new masters can keep an eye on him. Several unsuccessful attempts to get help later, Cox appears in the office under the pretense of being a security consultant. He outlines his plan: Jack will siphon ten thousand dollars a piece from the accounts of the bank’s ten thousand most wealthy clients, giving Cox a ransom of a cool one hundred million for Jack’s family. Jack has a number of technical objections, all of which are waved off by Cox. Jack is a security genius, so he will find a way. Cox kills his most inattentive henchman to provide addition incentive.

That night, Jack runs his son’s remote control car to distort the security monitors so that his wife and kids can escape. This almost works—“almost” being the operative word. In retaliation, Cox feeds Jack’s son a peanut-based cookie and then withholds his allergy medication until he’s almost to the point of death. Jack finally agrees to attempt the heist.

Harrison Ford's 'You've Surprised Me, But I'll Kill You As Soon As I Get the Chance' face.The heist in question involves using a fax scanner and an ipod to scan the account numbers off a maintenance screen, and then using that information at a transfer terminal to siphon the accounts. Jack puts the money in another account specified by Cox and voila! The heist is done, and Cox leaves with his money. Jack tries to leave too, to get his family back, but he’s terrible at subterfuge, and his unfriendly new boss has noticed his extremely suspicious behavior. He has to knock his new boss down in the parking lot and drive through a closed gate to get away.

He gets home, but his family isn’t there. One of the henchmen arrives to take Jack to an unspecified location. Jack finally snaps and kills the henchmen with a variety of kitchen appliances. He takes the henchman’s cell phone and leaves to look for help. The first person he runs to is his security partner. He sees Cox shoot the partner dead with Jack’s gun and figures out the rest of the plan. A phony message on the partner’s machine is supposed to make people think the partner was having an affair with Jack’s wife. The police would assume that Jack had killed his partner over the implied indiscretion, stolen the money to pay off the bogus gambling debts, and vanished. The henchman who was at Jack’s house was supposed to help him “disappear.” Jack waits until Cox is gone before he collects the gun and flees.

The next person he runs to is his ex-secretary, Janet. He fired her the day before when Cox thought she was too suspicious, but she softens up when he explains the situation to her. He explains his plan: Apparently, in order to siphon the accounts in question, he used the wire transfer terminal of her admirer, and borrowed that boy’s cell phone to take a picture of the screen. Janet tracks the boy down at a Christian rock concert and steals his phone. Jack uses it to get Cox’s account information. He breaks into an airport branch office of his bank to call Cox while he siphons the money away from his account. They agree to meet the next morning to exchange his family for the money.

Jack hears barking in the background during the call and realizes that Cox has taken the family dog as well. He tracks them using the GPS in the dog’s collar and sees that they’re not heading towards the bank after all. He sends Janice for the cops while he goes after his family. Several shootings, stabbings, and explosions later, Jack’s wife and kids are saved.

Thoughts:

Harrison Ford's 'I Will Gut You Like a Pig and Feast Upon Your Still-Quivering Remains' face.While I don’t think anyone will argue if I say that Harrison Ford is past his action star prime, I like his recent spate of “I’ve still got it” roles. Sure, having a sixty-something man married to a forty-something woman with kids in single and low double-digit age groups pushes credibility just a little bit, but I still enjoy his action scenes. He has the “everyman pushed to the brink” routine down pat; when he takes down men twice his size and a third his age, it’s out of desperation. They fall before they’ve had time to react properly, and die with surprised expressions on their faces. I can’t imagine him pulling off this kind of role for much longer though. To be an action star into your seventies you need a Connery-esque lovable irascibility, and I don’t see Ford ever pulling that off.

Of note: there are no firewalls in this movie. Well, I guess that’s not true. The sheer number of computers portrayed and Jack’s cautious approach to online security implies dozens of redundant firewalls, but they never come into play. Firewalls are programs that keep people on other computers out of your computers, and since Jack’s an administrator working within an established network, he probably never even comes into contact with one during the heist itself. On the other hand, it’s a vaguely computer-related word with only two syllables, one of which is “fire.” For a computer-ish suspense thriller, I guess it’s as good a title as any.

Kevin Murphy joins Mike Nelson for this commentary track, and together they spend a great deal of time at the beginning pointing out all the obvious elements that will be important later. At one point Kevin notes, “This movie’s so heavy with foreshadowing, it’s a wonder it doesn’t tip over.” Around that same time, Mike sums up Harrison Ford’s acting style with, “Grumble, whisper, scowl.” Later, Kevin notes the generally hopeless atmosphere at the bank by saying, “Walking is prohibited; everyone must joylessly trudge.” It’s a middle-quality suspense film made goofy by Mike and Kevin’s enumeration of its foibles and flaws, and thus is worthy of your attention.