You know you're on to a loser when an old pro like Harrison Ford can barely muster emotion even in his film's early scenes - the ones where we're supposed to believe how much he loves his family and enjoys his job. Instead, Ford grimly plods through every hoop the turgid plot makes him jump, sticking to a stock-in-trade grimace seemingly dredged up to justify his fee.
Bettany, meanwhile, is stuck with a typically charming/scheming British villain willing to do "whatever it takes" to make sure his target does what he wants. You look in his eyes and you see nothing but boredom - Bettany probably wishing he'd turned his Wimbledon director down when he offered him the gig, or counting the minutes until he can get home to Jennifer Connelly.
And then there's poor Virginia Madsen, swapping the subtle, textured characterisations of Sideways for a Hollywood-standard wife role, with almost nothing to do but get terrorised by the thieves.
Characters assassinated, Firewall itself feels like a carbon copy of a hundred other wannabe-thrillers, a production-line offering that starts with the pace of a sloth, throws a couple of intriguing bones in the middle (watch for the tension between Bettany's crooks as their original plan is thwarted) and then grinds to a halt like a car with a lawnmower engine. Even the allegedly hi-tech trappings seem to sit there and bring very little excitement to the plot. Meanwhile, great thesps like Robert Patrick, Robert Forster and particularly Alan Arkin are wasted in miniscule, near-cameo roles.
But then, this is Ford's film. Or at least it should be... Yet all he manages to do is grimace through it all as the story unfolds just as you'd expect. Far too much time, as we're here, is taken up with repetitive scenes of the villains threatening Madsen and her scared sprogs, leading Bettany to explain his behaviour to her: "I don't hate you," he sneers at his prisoner. "I just don't care about you." Chances are you'll have the same reaction to this movie.
You'll suspect the studio had the families of the cast and crew held hostage to get them involved. Indy IV can't happen soon enough for tired old Harrison...
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