The bank robbers come barging into the bank manager's home, take everybody hostage and order Dad to pop the safe at the branch office. But there's a time lock on the vault, which can not be overridden. That permits everyone to hang around in the living room, getting to know one another while the miscreants eat all the Wheaties. Eventually, Dad proves to be not quite the doofus he seems to be, the plot is foiled, and bourgeois order is restored to 79 Wistful Vista Drive.
You've seen this movie a dozen times. In Firewall, of course, it's 2006, and it is not cumbersome old cash the bad guys are looking for. They want electronic transfers. This means that their banker-victim is not a middle manager but Jack Stanfield (Harrison Ford), the top executive who installed and maintains the institution's impenetrable security system. It also means that there's a whole lot of not very cinematic hacking--lots of numbers whizzing across computer screens--allowing our minds to wander into realms a well-crafted suspense movie would never let them explore.
We're willing to concede that Ford is a more than usually spry 63-year-old--he's a movie star, for heaven's sake; it's his business not to act his age--but we have to wonder why, when the picture is set in Seattle, where it rains often, this detail-oriented guy never seems to remember his raincoat or umbrella. Then there's the matter of the family. What has rendered them so friendless? Only once does someone call to inquire why they haven't been around. The mailman doesn't appear. No one drops by to ask the kids to play. And then there's the robbers: a bunch of psychos who invade a home but pose no sexual menace to their female captives. The dog begins yapping at an inconvenient moment, and we fear more for him than for his owners.
It's all right, occasionally, to revisit currently disused genres. There can sometimes be something comforting in the old stylizations. But to make something like Firewall good, you have to make it at least a little bit new--or add more than an unending patter of rain and techno-talk.