A film review by Craig J. Koban November 29, 2013  


2013, R, 116 mins.


Liam Hemsworth as Adam Cassidy  /  Gary Oldman as Nicholas Wyatt  /  Harrison Ford as Jock Goddard  /  Amber Heard as Jenna Fletcher  /  Josh Holloway as Agent Billups  /  Embeth Davidtz as Judith Bolton

Directed by Robert Luketic  /  Written by Jason Dean Hall

PARANOIA is not only a relentlessly unoriginal and painfully tedious corporate/techno thriller, but it also makes the unpardonable sin of thinking that it’s a lot smarter than the audience.  

How can a film that has proven talent like Harrison Ford and Gary Oldman in the credits and sharing scenes together be a wholeheartedly clichéd experience, and one that lacks even a scintilla of intrigue?  Perhaps part of the problem is that they are given second billing (?!) to Liam Hemsworth, brother of Chris, who’s certainly not charismatic enough as a leading man to carry a film like this on his own two feet.  The larger problems, though, with the film lies solely with scripting, which – the longer the story progresses – basks in wanton predictability and eye rolling plot developments.  

That, and nothing truly thrilling ever really happens in this…thriller. 

Hemsworth plays Adam Cassidy, an industrious and determined young man working for Wyattcorp, a company that specializes in cutting edge cell phone technology.  He’s more than a bit miffed at the meteoric success of his superiors, while people like him and his other fellow worker drones see little, if any, of the financial windfall of those well above them on the corporate ladder.  Nonetheless, Adam has come up with what he thinks is a novel idea for being able to stream information from your smart phone to your TV (which, frankly, is not really that novel).  He pitches it to CEO Nicolas Wyatt (Gary Oldman, as contemptuously snarky as ever), but he is less than enthusiastic with the idea – and with Adam’s cockiness – and fires him and his colleagues on the spot.  Adam decides then that the best course of action would be to take his company credit card and charge up nearly $20,000 worth of high-end booze at a local Manhattan nightclub.  Hey, a man’s gotta make himself feel better after getting shit-canned.



Well, for a man as “smart” as Adam, he never once thinks that Wyattcorp would even find out his massive credit card tab, but they do, and when Wyatt drags Adam back into his office the next morning he gives him a stern ultimatum: Either pay up the money or go on a secret clandestine mission to infiltrate the offices of Wyatt’s chief opposition, Eikon, which is run by his former mentor, Jock Goddard (Harrison Ford, bald, gruff, and looking mostly uncomfortable in the film).  Hemsworth agrees to the task, and he soon is given everything he needs to come off as a credible “big player” in the industry (new clothes, a swanky new apartment, etc).  Things begin rather well for Adam, but grow complicated when he becomes infatuated with Eikon’s marketing manager, Emma (Amber Heard), a girl that – yup – he met at the nightclub earlier and had a one-night fling with.  Things get really dicey when Adam begins to emotionally align himself with Goddard and begins to have deep suspicions of Wyatt. 

PARANOIA suffers from ample…how shall I say it…stupidity from a plotting perspective right from the get-go.  It also feels manufactured from a random scrip generator.  For example, you just know that when Adam hooks up with Emma in that posh nightclub that she will indeed return in the film later as – gasp! – a worker at the company he’s trying to infiltrate.  Then there’s the notion that two massively successful and enterprising tech corporations are hellishly fighting over smart phone technology that – as far as I can tell from this film – is not altogether that radical or revolutionary.  Furthermore, why on earth would Wyatt form a master plan to get what he wants from Eikon, only to rely on an untrustworthy man like Adam, who has proven himself to be a deceitful person to Wyatt?  Also, for a man as supposedly intelligent and savvy like Goddard, he sure seems to have a great deal of difficulty suspecting that Adam’s motives may indeed be impure.  Outside of a lack of a brain in its head, the film’s screenplay just lacks any sense of a pulse or nail-biting forward momentum. 

The performances in the film range from adequate to middling to embarrassing.  As for the adequate, I did like the appearance of Richard Dreyfus as Adam’s ill father, who gives the film a glimmer of interest when he’s on screen (granted, there’s no real reason for this extraneous character to exist in the film in the first place).  As for the middling, Oldman and Ford – sharing screen time together for the first time since 1997's AIR FORCE ONE – certainly do create some sparks of intrigue when they do perform opposite of one another, but their time together is egregiously short lived.  Oldman is in pure salivating villain mode and Ford seems to be lazily phoning it in for a paycheck.  As for embarrassing, Hemsworth is indeed a very handsome actor, but he genuinely seems psychologically and emotionally empty throughout the film.  He looks the part, but never inhabits it thoroughly; imagine what a young Christian Bale could have done with the same role.  Amber Heard, also physically fetching, is pure window dressing here with not much of a character to play.  Her would-be steamy love scenes with Hemsworth have all the passion of a perfume commercial. 

Australian director Robert Luketic previously made a thriller that I did enjoy, 21, which chronicled the world of underground gambling.  Here, though, he simply seems to have no idea of what kind of film he’s trying to quarterback.  He tries, I think, to overcome all of PARANOIA’s short-sightedness from a script perspective by infusing the film with flashy and overly stylish visual flourishes at times that only serves to further embellish the film’s desperation.  When he attempts to build the film to what I’m sure was supposed to be an enthralling conclusion where Adam, Wyatt, and Goddard all lock horns in the same room, it comes off as so aggressively anti-climatic that you begin to question to very smarts of men like the two corporate heavyweights.  How could men so cunning and ruthless be so easily manipulated by such a greenhorn like Adam? 

PARANOIA frankly left me asking far too many inane questions, which really sullied my full enjoyment of it.  I’m quite sure that, at least during the inception phase, there was a good film to be made from this material, but the end result feels barely like first draft material.  Perhaps the film’s biggest blunder is that it misuses the talents of actors like Oldman and Ford, and you know you’re in trouble when you can't make a film even remotely interesting when you have the likes of them appearing in it.  With a shortage of actual thrills, a squandered cast, and methodically dull and conventional scripting, PARANOIA scarcely registers above the petty moniker of a curiosity piece.  There’s a reason that this film all but disappeared ever-so-quickly after its theatrical release in August: it’s got that dubious qualitative direct-to-video vibe written all over it.

  H O M E