‘Paranoia’ lacks the suspense its title suggests
Par·a·noi·a (noun): A mental condition characterized by delusions of persecution, unwarranted jealousy, or exaggerated self-importance, typically worked /
Suspicion and mistrust of people or their actions without evidence or justification.
See, this is the problem with specific titles (reference “Abduction”). Paranoia has an incredibly specific meaning, but the apex would be that the fear involve is normally unwarranted. In “Paranoia,” there’s plenty to fear. There’s more than an hour and a half of sloppily crafted, poorly edited and lazily acted “film” to fear.
Failing to create an atmosphere worthy of its title, “Paranoia,” directed by Robert Luketic (“21”) does possess a certain sleekness to it. It has to, considering the protagonist, Adam Cassidy (Liam Hemsworth, “The Hunger Games”), is a tech genius with a desire to become something more than his security officer of a father. The tech industry does like its shine, doesn’t it?
Headquartered in Manhattan, Adam (who also serves as narrator for some random reason) seeks to advance his position at the tech firm for which he works. The hotshot rookie employee works for Nic Wyatt (Gary Oldman), one of two tech giant multibillionaires who serves as power players in this lackluster endeavor. (We’ll get to the other one in a moment.)
Long, tediously boring story short, Adam allows himself to be recruited into corporate espionage in return for money and glory. Honorable, right? His target: to steal trade secrets from Wyatt’s rival and former business partner, Jock Goddard (Harrison Ford). Goddard is the other half to Wyatt, a vicious corporate shark with a grin to match.
It should be said here that the few memorable moments in “Paranoia” happen when Oldman and Ford go at each other, cutting one another with verbal slashes and freezing stare downs. Their back-and-forth encounter is fairly engrossing, if only because it’s the only acting worth watching. Still, credit where it’s due, right?
But back to Adam and his insanely stupid plan to try to steal tech from a man who’s known to kill. Coached and mentored by Wyatt’s assistant (Embeth Davidtz), Adam finds himself living like the 1 percenters. He’s even given tips on how to socialize and connect with those of wealth.
What follows is draining and predictable. Hemsworth, an actor on par with Taylor Launter when it comes to solely being used for his looks, doesn’t disappointed on this count. And director Luketic makes use of this, having Hemsworth shirtless more often than not and making out with female companion Amber Heard, an Ivy Leaguer who just as ambitious and useless as everyone else. But what more can you ask of an actor who has the emotional range of a fashion mannequin?
As mentioned, Oldman and Ford manage to hold their own in this disaster of a script by Jason Hall and Barry L. Levy, adapted from Joseph Finder’s 2004 novel of the same title. But their roles are limited by the nature of the movie, and it shows when you find yourself waiting just to see them.
For a movie about high-tech wizardry and high-flying Manhattan-style living, “Paranoia” somehow feels outdated and un-thought out. Adam is supposed to be from Brooklyn, yet he doesn’t sound like it. And there seems to be some plot-stealing afoot. The whole “father who espouses working-class values”? Hello, “Wall Street.” And no mention of the tech hubs of America, Silicon Valley or Seattle? Yes, New York City is seeing a boom in tech start-ups, but the director’s need to shower love on Manhattan is obvious.
Still, more than anything, “Paranoia” fails to convey a real sense of dread. Hemsworth’s Adam nonchalantly deals with being spied on, stalked and harassed all while breaking the law. In the end, there’s nothing to fear but “Paranoia” itself.
One tech-heavy star out of five.