Mark Reviews Movies

Paranoia (2013)


1 ˝ Stars (out of 4)

Director: Robert Luketic

Cast: Liam Hemsworth, Gary Oldman, Amber Heard, Harrison Ford, Lucas Till, Embeth Davidtz, Julian McMahon, Richard Dreyfus, Josh Holloway

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for some sexuality, violence and language)

Running Time: 1:46

Release Date: 8/16/13

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Review by Mark Dujsik | August 16, 2013

Paranoia is a thriller that presents a personal hell of the protagonist's own making, and it's really not much of a thriller, either. The story is one of corporate espionage where not a single character is trustworthy or admirable, although the movie certainly wants us to believe that the hero possesses those qualities. Honestly, he's quite the opposite.

This guy has a chip on his shoulder that the city of New York cannot contain. He's disillusioned by Wall Street men who have ruined the economy to the point that he can no longer chase any kind of American Dream. He's fed up living in Brooklyn, staring at the promise on the other side of the bridge with envy (You know, the side where all the stuff went down that he so utterly despises).

He's got his eyes on the prize, whatever that may be. Basically, he wants everything, wants it now, and doesn't care how he gets it. He's troubled about the lengths to which he has to go when the reality of his situation hits, though, so screenwriters Jason Hall and Barry L. Levy (adapting the novel by Joseph Finder) assume that's enough of a foundation for sympathy.

That's only the beginning of the problems with Adam Cassidy's (Liam Hemsworth) adventures in corporate espionage. First, he's not exactly good at it. Second, the movie never fully explains what he's doing in general or specifically, especially when it comes time for major events. Third, the forces manipulating him have such seemingly unlimited power that each and every attempt he makes to fight back ends up sounding and looking like an argument against a brick wall (He's neither good at the assignment nor a quick learner). Fourth, the movie has so many holes in logic, contrivances, and improbabilities that this list is at a fourth item without any end in sight.

Adam is working for a floundering cell phone company run by Nicolas Wyatt (Gary Oldman), a once powerful man in the industry who, Adam tells him during a presentation that could get he and his friends out of their entry-level jobs, has started to lose touch with his customers. Adam and his friends are fired on the spot.

In an act of rebellion against the company, Adam takes his friends out for a night at an expensive club and charges $16,000 of top-shelf liquor to the company credit card. He also has a one-night stand with a beautiful mystery woman whose name is Emma (Amber Heard), though she doesn't tell him that. In the morning, Wyatt's personal security man Meechum (Julian McMahon) grabs Adam and brings him to Wyatt, who is none too happy with the credit card fraud. He gives him two options: Go to jail or start working for his competition Jock Goddard (Harrison Ford) in order to steal the plans for a revolutionary new cell phone. Adam chooses the latter.

From here on out, everything should be obvious. Yes, Emma works for Goddard's company and turns up at Adam's interview, where they have to pretend not to know each other. Yes, they end up continuing where left off, given that Adam now has a ridiculously big Manhattan apartment and is in daily contact with her to keep pressing the issue—despite knowing that he's going to have to betray her. Hemsworth plays the role ice cold, and the result is that we're convinced he's only using Emma for his own ends.

Yes, Adam takes to Goddard and quickly sees him as a father figure, having become annoyed by his own father (Richard Dreyfus). Adam becomes a star at the company in record time. He eventually wants out of the scheme, but Wyatt threatens everyone he knows, showing him how he has cameras in his father's house and—not surprisingly at all—throughout the apartment they set up for him. In between a lot of nonsensical technology talk, Meechum shows up to threaten him, and an FBI agent (Josh Holloway) appears and comically disappears into thin air. The whole thing is resolved by two instances of villains who talk too much for no good reason.

The movie never convinces us it has any concern for technology and only pretends to when it needs a cheap excuse to put Adam in peril. Take the climactic break-in, in which Adam shuts down the security system to sneak into the vault. We have no clue what the plan is or how he intends to achieve it, and the security system works or doesn't work depending on when tension is needed. The sequence, like the rest of Paranoia, just wants us to be aware that there is technology of some sort being used, no matter how little understanding we're offered of it or sense the stuff we are told makes.

Copyright © 2013 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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