Imagine if Bill Gates and Steve Jobs waged a behind-the-scenes war full of corporate espionage, crazy technical gadgets, power-hungry motives, and death – that’s essentially Paranoia. In the dirty world of tech businesses, bosses are willing to do whatever it takes to stay on top, even if that means blackmailing a young man and breaking every law possible. It’s the quintessential “people who earn lots of money don’t deserve it,” ninety-nine percent promoting film, as “The Man” takes advantage of those far worse off than he. Well, sorry, in this case it would be two versions of “The Man,” one played by Harrison Ford and the other played by Gary Oldman, but you get the picture. If you’ve seen one business-themed thriller, you’ve pretty much seen them all – and Paranoia is no exception.
Adam Cassidy (Liam Hemsworth) is a brilliant young techie with a bright future, but he’s been pigeon holed as an intern type for one of the largest technology companies in the world – Wyatt Corporation. Finally getting a chance to pitch what could be a game-changing idea to owner Nicolas Wyatt (Gary Oldman), Adam goes in full of fight and optimism, but leaves without a job. Angry and still possessing his expense account, Adam takes his fellow unemployed friends out for a night on the town, but his decision costs him much more than money. Wyatt Corporation’s competition, Eikon, just recently announced they’ll be launching a product that will put Wyatt Corp. out of business, which owner Jock Goddard (Harrison Ford) would love to do. Seeing an opportunity, Wyatt blackmails Adam in an attempt to uncover Goddard’s secrets – as long as Mr. Cassidy can avoid getting caught.
I know some of you are revving up to read an absolute thrashing of a review, but I’ll be honest, I’m not going to trash Paranoia completely, because the actors involved are an absolute delight. I’m not going to say they saved Robert Luketic’s film from a mind-numbing fate, but I will say actors like Gary Oldman and Liam Hemsworth made Jason Dean Hall and Barry Levy’s meticulously average adapted screenplay a little more enjoyable than it rightfully should have been.
Liam Hemsworth comes as a delightful surprise in his main role as Adam Cassidy, showing his brother Chris isn’t the only Hemsworth with leading man charisma. As much as I thought Liam would be nothing but a pretty face with star appeal, he absolutely ate up the spotlight every chance he could, winning us over with a slick charm, suave moves, and a playful demeanor. He carries his weight and holds his own when sharing scenes with Oldman and Harrison, delivering much more than a chiseled bod and mainstream profitability. Paranoia marks this Hemsworth’s transformation into a bona fide leading man – now let’s see what he can do with such a status.
Harrison Ford and Gary Oldman provide the typically stellar performances both veteran actors have become known for, with Oldman getting in his typical character actor mode. Ford is pretty much just a business CEO who’s protective of his ideas, but Oldman provides a character in Wyatt with snark, fire, and awfulness. The blockbuster status of Paranoia benefits greatly from having both talents involved, bringing credibility to scenes other actors may not have been able to do.
But that’s really where my praise stops, as Paranoia is your typical run-of-the-mill thriller full of expected twists, random love interests, and a main character with the best of intentions being screwed by the system. Full of predictable intrigue, suspenseful cliches, and pacing that lets you get about five steps ahead, there isn’t a single iota of creativity that sets Luketic’s film aside from the pack. Sure, I may have mentioned above how Hemsworth’s cheekier lines provide entertainment, and how Gary Oldman is an acting stud, but when I wasn’t momentarily engaged, I felt completely disconnected. Well, not just disconnected, bored and spoon-fed as well, which removed that “thrilling” aspect from what is being billed as a thriller.
Aside from battling off a quick nap, I also found Adam’s situation all too Hollywood stereotypical, beating the “hard-working young man can’t find success” theme into the ground. Yes, my generation is screwed between college loans, soaring housing costs, ridiculous taxes, and a shaky job market, and as much as it sucks watching fat-cats make up an elitist one percent, Adam was just too grand of an over-characterization of ninety-nine percenter propaganda. Leaving the politics out of it all, his speeches and the hokey soundtrack that would play in the background became laughable at points, and his random outbursts at his sick father (Richard Dreyfuss) didn’t help highlight his struggles in any way. Trust me, I feel for Adam’s situation, and I can certainly back up the horrors young professionals face (mainly because I am one), but I don’t need to see a hammed up, Hollywood representation.
Paranoia is a preachy, predictable, and tension-less thriller that wastes a phenomenal cast on an overbearing social agenda. Liam Hemsworth certainly does his best not to get bogged down with such material, but it’s impossible to ignore just how cookie-cutter the espionage aspects of Luketic’s film are. Generally, if you’re just looking for a straight-forward thrill ride that plays by the books (all too thoroughly in my opinion), then you might have some fun with what’s presented. You certainly won’t be gasping for air, blown away by brilliance, but if you just need “a movie,” then Paranoia is certainly that – “a movie.”
A stellar cast does their best to salvage Paranoia, but a serious lack of tension and a bad case of "Predictability-itus" makes Luketic's film nothing but another faceless thriller leaving audiences wanting so much more.