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Firewall

Ford Tough

We've seen this movie before.

In Air Force One, Harrison Ford lost his plane to a gang of Russian hijackers, only to retrieve it by morphing into a one-man army. In Firewall, he plays mild-mannered security specialist Jack Stanfield, whose family is held hostage by sneering British techno-terrorist Bill Cox (Paul Bettany). Ford, 63, shakes off the cobwebs and races to the rescue, dutifully reaffirming his iconic status as the strong, silent type, the all-American family man. Perhaps in his next movie, he'll lose his Blockbuster card. Or his bus pass. ("Get off my Muni!")

Either way, the smart money says he'll get it back. Like Clint Eastwood, Ford has played the unflappable hero so often that the role must fit him like a pair of well-worn sneakers; unlike Eastwood, who has broadened his horizons in recent years as a character actor and director, Ford has been spinning his wheels since 1993's The Fugitive. Now comes Firewall, a 21st-century take on the tough-guy-in-distress formula, playing on modern-day fears of home invasions and identity theft.

And it's not half bad. Sure, it's familiar, and it's over the top -- though not nearly as laughable or bombastic as Air Force One. But it's an efficient thriller, driven by the passably entertaining tug of war between Bettany's insidious villain and Ford, who could perform this role in his sleep. To be fair, the role has been tweaked ever so slightly, perhaps a tacit acknowledgement of his age. He's no longer the head-busting bruiser who picks off the bad guys with improbable precision. Instead, Firewall renders him impotent to save his family until the final frames, when Ford emerges as a vulnerable but otherwise recognizable demigod.

Surprising? Hardly. Firewall is suspenseful to a point, but we've been down this road before. It's an old song with a new riff, made all the more palatable by Bettany, who seems to relish every icy syllable. Joining the fun are Virginia Madsen, in a disappointingly slight role after her star-making turn in Sideways, and Mary Lynn Rajskub, who takes a break from pouting as Chloe, Jack Bauer's trusted sidekick in "24", to pout as Ford's trusted sidekick, Janet.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars