Paranoia: Timely but Predictable Thriller

Director Robert Luketic has assembled a very gifted cast for his new corporate-thriller, “Paranoia,” including vets like Harrison Ford and up-and-coming stars like Liam Hemsworth. But, essentially, the movie is a poor genre item, albeit with some poignant socio-economic issues, leaving much be desired in every department but acting.

The title promises a suspenseful, provocative (even titillating) timely tale about global takeover schemes, top-secret military projects, and corporate execs. But after the first reel, the storytelling loses its energy, the direction drops its edge, turning “Paranoia” into a more conventional B-Picture coming from mainstream Hollywood.

Set in Downtown New York, where Silicon Valley companies have headquartered, the tale revolves around Adam Cassidy (Hemsworth), a novice programmer at a global tech company. Initially, he comes across as a good-natured, hard-working, and loyal son—among other chores, he supports his ill dad (Richard Dreyfuss), who lives with him.

At a crucial session, Cassidy makes a product proposal to the company’s CEO, Nicholas Wyatt (Gary Oldman), which doesn’t go well (to say the least), and as a result, he and his staff get fired. Undeterred by the setback, Adam convinces his peers to go out drinking, charging their corporate credit cards (which, strangely, are still functional).

In one of the saga’s improbable turns, Wyatt rehires Adam to the company, enlisting him to spy on a rival tech exec named Eikon (pronounced “Icahn”), run by Wyatt’s former mentor, Jock Goddard (Harrison Ford).
Quickly rising through the Eikon ranks, Adam is teamed with the company’s marketing head, Emma (Amber Heard), an ambitious woman, with whom he had once had a brief affair.

As Adam works his way deeper into Goddard’s inner-circle and back to Emma’s bed, he begins a series of double-crosses. Soon, his conscience begins to bother him, leading to concerns over his own personal safety.

The suspicion of a life in risk increases when FBI agents show him autopsy photos of recent Wyatt-commissioned corporate spies who had all disappeared in strange circumstances.

Unfortunately, better known for fluffy romantic comedies (“Legally Blonde” is still his best picture), director Robert Luketic is unable to lift the schlocky, borderline exploitation material, adapted from Joseph Finder’s novel, to the level of a suspenseful and relevant thriller. The use of gimmicky stylistic devices just calls attention to the shortcomings of the script, which lacks plausibility (huge holes in the plot) and further suffers from predictability, as the audience is always ahead of the filmmakers and the characters.

The best thing about this superficial thriller is its actors, who try to make the most of largely underwritten roles. At 70, Harrison Ford still looks good, slowly becoming a character actor after being a box-office star for three decades.

Gary Oldman, back to his villainous roles, turns in a juicy performance in what could be described as a pale imitation to Michael Douglas’ Geiko in “Wall Street.”

A pretty boy, circling around stardom while waiting for the right part to do it, Liam Hemsworth gets a star treatment from the director and his admiring camera, which cannot get enough of him, with and without a shirt (often for no apparent reason other than to display his handsome body).

As director, Luketic has devolved into a shallow craftsman, who works steadily on mindless films that are getting worse and worse. Over the past decade, he has made “Monster-in-Law,” “21,” “Ugly Truth,” and “Killers,” all dismissible pictures, panned by most critics, but generating moderate coin at the box-office.