A little bird saw an advanced screening of Firewall, the new Harrison Ford thriller, in September. This is what he told me:

After the usual disclaimers about temporary sound and color, the movie began. Despite the warnings, it looked very close to a final product. The story is this: Harrison Ford plays a computer security expert who works for a large Seattle bank. The bank is about to merge, and he doesn’t get along with the corporate guy from the other company (Robert “Terminator 2” Patrick). A young man (Paul Bettany), offers him and his friend consulting jobs. After this meeting, they walk out in the rain and Bettany gets into Harrison Ford’s car, drops his American accent and pulls a gun. He tells him that he’s kidnapped his family, and Ford has do everything he says or the family will eat it.

The surprise is how long Ford does do exactly what he says. He eventually engineers some escape attempts for the family that go horribly awry and put them in greater danger. The family is developed more than you might expect, which is not to say that they ever get beyond the cut-out stage. Virginia Madsen’s character is so much the loving wife that I was immediately suspicious that she was behind the plot. Alas, no luck. The usual suspect is the surprise culprit, and Harrison goes to many places we’ve already seen him go in movies like The Fugitive and Clear and Present Danger. The money laundering plot doesn’t withstand scrutiny. Nevermind how byzantine and implausibly high-tech it is, the type of family man Ford’s character is established as would never do anything to jeopardize his family. It’s a no-brainer choice for him: do something illegal and lose a job you don’t like anyway or lose your family. Duh, Harrison. Stop pissing Bettany off.

While there are a few good scenes (a baddie getting pummeled by a blender), the cast and director seem to be sleepwalking to Paycheckville. However, in a climate where the egregious Flightplan rakes in beaucoup moolah at the b.o., maybe another contrived thriller will hit America’s sweetspot.