Forget Paranoia, This Film Doesn’t Even Give You a Reason to Be Anxious.

Director: ROBERT LUKETIC/2013

Paranoia sets itself up as a first-rate thriller where a lowly entry level employee is pitted between two cutthroat corporate bosses, and must find a way to get out from under both of their influences and get his life back.  The reality of it is that it is really about a boy who really thinks the grass is greener on the other side with a side agenda of communicating how corporations are evil and a message on the state of healthcare in our country.

Liam Hemsworth (The Hunger Games, Expendables 2) plays Adam Cassidy, a rising star at The Wyatt Corporation, named for Nicolas Wyatt, who is played ruthlessly by Gary Oldman (Dark Knight Trilogy, Harry Potter Series).  When Adam recklessly uses his corporate descritionary fund after losing his job, Mr. Wyatt offers him the green pastures he has always longed for, but at a price: committing corporate espionage against Mr. Wyatt’s former mentor, now rival, Jock Goddard (Harrison Ford-Indiana Jones, 42, Star Wars), or face jail time for fraud.

Working for technology companies means that we will be treated to seeing supposed high-tech surveillance of Adam’s attempt to spy on his bosses’ rival.  This surveillance, and the threat of violence against Adam’s family and friends if he doesn’t perform the espionage, is what provides us the title of the film, as our main character must live with one eye open and be stealth enough to evade the traps of these two corporate bosses who are out to settle old scores with one another.

Unfortunately, this technology seems commonplace in our world.  For a generation brought up on the watching The Real World, Big Brother, and other countless reality/voyueristic-based survieillence type shows, the audience reaction to this plot is basically a collective shoulder shrug of “who cares”.  Most of the paranoia and fear we are supposed to feel for Adam is lost in seeing something so commonplace in our culture being sold as “the future”, that it undermines the story.  The fact that this is a movie about high-tech products that doesn’t seem that it is that much more advanced that what we currently experience in our culture lowers the stakes and the relevance of the power struggle happening in front of us between two fine actors.  Having last seen Gary Oldman and Harrison Ford face off against one another over 15 years ago in Air Force One, Paranoia, looked like a slam dunk. It’s not.

That is not to say that it didn’t have its moments.  The best part of this film are the scenes where Oldman and Ford go toe-to-toe.  Next to their gravitas, Liam Hemsworth and the rest of the supporting cast seem like they should be a part of a show on the CW.  This includes Amber Heard (Drive Angry, Zombieland), Lucas Till (X-Men: First Class-looking like a scrawnier version of Josh Hutcherson), and Angela Sarafyan (Breaking Dawn: Part 2, A Good Old-Fashioned Orgy). Richard Dreyfuss (Jaws, Mr. Holland’s Opus) and Josh Holloway (Lost, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, Battle of the Year) lend some nice moments, but they are way too few. In fact, Josh Holloway, as FBI Agent Gamble, may be on screen less than five minutes.  Given the espionage that is central to this plot, the FBI’s continual pursuit of Adam would have provided even more tension to raise the stakes for the audience, and actually tie in the film’s title.  Instead, Agent Gamble is an afterthought and a plot device to wrap up the film and nothing more.

The final 10 minutes of Paranoia are the most disappointing.  Having wrapped up the story’s espionage theme, the film continues to follow Adam’s character simply to address the “grass isn’t greener” storyline, complete with a Wizard of Oz “there’s no place like home” moment.  It is meant to end the film on a high note, but instead it reduces it to an after school special-type conclusion for a film that presents itself as anything but.

The fact is that nothing takes you by surprise in this movie.  Every plot twist is telegraphed and foreshadowed.  Director Robert Luketic has previous experience directing the original Legally Blonde, as well as the two Katherine Hiegl bombs, The Ugly Truth and Killers, among other box office fodder.  None of these previous films really establish that Luketic is cut out for the aim of this film.  The closest movie on his resume would be 21, but it still doesn’t come close to being a suspense thriller that Paranoia tries to be. Despite having several quality actors in this film and a promising premise, ultimately Paranoia falls way short of its potential.

Harrison Ford will easily be able to forget this if it bombs as he has roles in the upcoming Ender’s Game, and a new Star Wars film, as well as a rumored 5th Indiana Jones movie.  Gary Oldman will also continue to have opportunities to shine.  Liam Hemsworth, however, may be another story. Besides The Hunger Games, and an upcoming Arabian Nights film, Hemsworth is struggling to cross over into a leading man, box office draw.  The Hunger Games is more an ensemble and its real star is Jennifer Lawrence.  In many ways, Liam is much more like Orlando Bloom, at this stage of his career. Orlando Bloom had successful franchise films in the Pirates of the Caribbean and The Lord of the Rings films, but has largely failed to open a film on his own.  Hemsworth is smart to join a cast with the gravitas of Oldman and Ford, but instead of being elevated by aligning himself with the likes of them, he will instead bear more of the brunt for the film’s failure.

Paranoia is a high-tech film for 2008, but in 2013, it seems like this summer’s Blackberry device…headed for obscurity.