You could probably throw a dart at any executive at any of the major studios in Hollywood and, after screaming in pain, they would say their strategy for making films these days is based on a global marketing initiative.  The stakes have changed, the studios are now all part of media conglomerates, and the new showbiz sales adage has now become “It’s nothing if doesn’t play in Pretoria.”  The new Warner Bros. Pictures major release Firewall, starring Harrison Ford, could be the poster child for this new form of world entertainment.  It is slick, well-crafted, well-acted, full of action and images of the high life of American society, and a flawlessly produced filmed product with nothing to say and no heart and soul.  It is hard to criticize such a film because it is enjoyable to watch with enough thrills and action to keep it interesting but also easily forgotten once you leave the theater.  

Firewall is another of these home/office- invasions-by-criminals-acting-a-lot-like-terrorists movies in recent years taking advantage of the fears brought upon after 9/11.  Harrison Ford plays Jack Stanfield, a top-ranking bank executive who designed the most effective anti-theft system in the industry.  Paul Bettany is Bill Cox, a wolf in Brooks Brothers suit who kidnaps Jack’s family and forces him to break into his own bank and steal money for them, which these days involves electronic transactions to those elusive off-shore accounts.  And just like his President Marshall in Air Force One, Harrison Ford takes matters into his own hands, and the rest you can figure it out on your own.

The supporting cast is first-rate but underused, especially the underappreciated Virginia Madsen, who is relegated to the resourceful wife role.  Mary Lynn Rajskub, a standout on Fox TV’s 24, is relegated to resourceful secretary role, and the always reliable Robert Forster is relegated to the doomed friend role.  British director Richard Loncraine has made some impressive films in the past, such as the compelling modern retelling of Shakespeare’s Richard III and the controversial black comedy Brimstone and Treacle.  Now it seems he’s relegated himself to Hollywood fluff such as the mediocre Wimbledon, also starring Paul Bettany, who trades in his leading man status to take on the bad-guy role so often coddled by actors these days.  Just a note, Bettany will take on another off-color character in director Ron Howard’s blockbuster-to-be The Da Vinci Code later this year.

With so many other films around that deserve audiences, it’s a shame that Firewall will probably bring in big money, globally, of course.  I guess the bottom line dictates that these kinds of films, which deserve their place at the multiplexes, take center stage on America’s world war on box office dominance.  At least it can be said that, although Firewall isn’t the best story out there, it is at least well-made and won’t embarrass us with the folks in Pretoria.  

Firewall opens February 10th nationally.  Released by Warner Bros. Pictures. Running time is 105 minutes.

Rich Burlingham

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