Directed by Robert Luketic. Starring Liam Hemsworth, Gary Oldman, Harrison Ford, Amber Heard, Embeth Davidtz, Richard Dreyfuss, Lucas Till, Julian McMahon, Josh Holloway. (2013, PG-13, 106 min.)
REVIEWED By Steve Davis, Fri., Aug. 23, 2013
The inert techno-thriller Paranoia is much like watching an app download on a weak Internet connection – slow and tedious, it seems to take forever. Despite its title, there’s no somebody’s-watching-me tension in this tale of corporate thievery set in the high-tech world of too-smart phones and invasive applications. Unlike Seventies-era exercises like The Conversation or The Parallax View, the movie never taps into the blurred lines of the paranoid mind. The numerous surveillance cameras and hovering helicopters appearing in Paranoia suggest an environment in which no privacy or secrets can exist, but they’re set-dressing without context. At best, the movie is a showcase for lanky Aussie hunk Hemsworth as Adam Cassidy, an entry-level software drone from Brooklyn who lands a job with a multibillion-dollar Manhattan communications firm, with the intent to spy and steal on behalf of a former employer. Not surprisingly, Hemsworth appears shirtless three times in the film’s first half hour. But not even his six-pack abs and blue-eyed earnestness can distract from the absence of a serviceable story, or one that makes any sense. You could drive an 18-wheeler through the substantial number of plot holes in Paranoia.
The movie’s bad guys – the oily Nicolas Wyatt (Oldman) and the deceptively paternal Jock Goddard (Ford) – fare no better. (Yes, that’s his name: Jock.) Their long-standing professional rivalry is the basis of the movie’s espionage-tinged narrative, but the beef between these guys lacks dramatic conflict. Their third-act confrontations play oddly flat, given all the buildup about their mutual animosity. Indeed, the vocal difference between Oldman’s Cockney accent and Ford’s American growl says more about what separates these men than the script does. Oldman doesn’t embarrass himself, but Ford’s performance is yet another example of this one-time action hero and leading man’s struggle to settle into character roles. (His supporting turn in 42 felt like a calculated bid for an Oscar nomination.) But you can’t lay the blame for this piece of ineptness at the feet of Ford or any other actor. In this age of growing discomfort with governmental and technological intrusions into our daily lives, you’d think this movie would tap into those fears and capitalize on them to its advantage. No such luck. It’s a wasted opportunity that leaves Paranoia unsettling only in its failure to unsettle.