Movie review: Paranoia
05:01 AM, Aug 16, 2013
Were it the sum of its formidable parts, Paranoia might give good movies an inferiority complex.
Alas, there’s nothing a good film or mediocre one, for that matter need worry about when it comes to this slick but simple-minded thriller (* * out of 4, rated PG-13, opens nationwide Friday) featuring a lineup that screams it could have been a contender.
Based on the novel by Joseph Finder, Paranoia aims to be a Wall Street for the Twitter generation. Instead, it plays more like a 21 Jump Street, full of pretty people and a thumping soundtrack but offering little in the way of something to say.
Liam Hemsworth (The Hunger Games) plays Adam Cassidy, a regular Joe working at a tech firm with ruthless boss Nicholas Wyatt (Gary Oldman).
Wyatt is a deliciously wicked character, one who texts incessantly and complains about cold tea while his underlings make desperate pitches for the company’s next high-tech breakthrough.
But when Adam makes a pitch that falls flat, Wyatt fires him and his dweeb pals, prompting Adam to use the corporate credit card for a final blowout: a $16,000 booze-filled party.
That’s all the ammunition Wyatt needs to blackmail him: Adam must either steal corporate secrets from a rival firm run by Jock Goddard (Harrison Ford) or explain his drunken thievery to the cops.
The setup should be fodder for entertaining corporate espionage, perhaps even topical discussion about privacy and information leaks. Instead, director Robert Luketic (Legally Blonde, Win a Date With Tad Hamilton) opts to substitute car chases for tension and fistfights for suspense.
And what a cast he had. Oldman and Ford make terrific corporate titans. Oldman can’t help but ooze impatience and contempt for the go-getters looking to create the next Facebook. Ford sporting a shaved head and looking nothing like the graying Branch Rickey he played in 42 has glided seamlessly into older characters, thanks largely to a gravel baritone that has become an effective tool for him. And Richard Dreyfuss plays Adam’s blue-collar father, chewing the scenery and stogies with a disarming grin.
But Luketic rests the film squarely on the broad shoulders of his younger cast, particularly Hemsworth, who simply doesn’t have the range the role requires. As he finds himself being squeezed by corporate thugs, the FBI and a perky love interest in Emma (Amber Heard), Adam seems ill-equipped to do much but walk around shirtless and pout.
There are bright moments. Oldman and Ford share the screen in two scenes that crackle, and illuminate what Paranoia might have been. And the technology our cash-obsessed CEOs crave tracking software that monitors every movement and every phone, even those not turned on seems frighteningly plausible.
Still, every time Paranoia comes close to saying something, the story freezes like an overheated cellphone. You might not feel frightened by Paranoia, but you could get the sneaking suspicion you were ripped off.