Review: Paranoia (2013)


Cast: , ,
Director: Robert Luketic
Country: USA | France
Genre: Drama | Thriller
Official Site: Here

When Liam Hemsworth, the younger brother of Chris “Thor” Hemsworth appeared on the set of Paranoia, the corporate-espionage thriller directed by Robert Luketic (Killers, 21, Legally Blonde) with minimal competency, Luketic and his producers must have surely thought a mistake had been made. They probably thought they had hired Chris, not Liam, and to make up for it, made sure to get Liam to go shirtless in a record number of scenes for a non-porno film. He’s either stepping out of the shower or stepping into the shower (cleanliness being next to godliness and all). Then again, Hemsworth seems to do his best thinking when he’s wearing a sleeveless t-shirt and flexing in front of a mirror (“thinking” is meant ironically here in case you’re wondering). Maybe it was the conscious effort needed to maintain an American accent or maybe the younger Hemsworth has only a fraction of his brother’s talent and charisma, but whatever the reason, Hemsworth delivers one of the most lifeless, lethargic performances in recent memory.

Hemsworth’s Cassidy proves to be a dull, witless hero, incapable of thinking ahead or thinking through the obvious consequences of his actions.

Maybe, though, that’s being too harsh to the younger Hemsworth’s acting talent (or lack thereof). Maybe not. It’s clear, however, that Jason Hall and Barry L. Levy’s adaptation of Joseph Finder’s 2004 novel does Hemsworth no favors. Whether he’s reading his lines in the opening voiceover as his character runs desperately through the streets of Manhattan or talking with any number of Paranoia‘s unmemorable characters, Hemsworth’s forced to utter a string of cringe-inducing banalities masquerading as profound insights into early 21st-century capitalism. Hemsworth’s character, Adam Cassidy, a twenty-something software engineer/designer at a tech company, Wyatt Corp., run, as every tech company is, by an autocrat, Nicolas Wyatt (Gary Oldman). Wyatt coldly dismisses a software pitch four months in the making, canning Cassidy and his software team, in the process.

paranoia-2Rather than pack up his boxes and begin the search for a new job, Cassidy decides to get a measure of revenge on Wyatt, using his business card to rack up $16,000. Not surprisingly, Wyatt isn’t pleased. With a threat of arrest and imprisonment hanging over Cassidy’s broad shoulders, Wyatt offers Cassidy a Faustian deal he can’t, but should, refuse: Go undercover at his onetime business partner-turned-rival’s company, Eikon, nab the specs and, later, the prototype for Eikon’s latest, greatest, and, as Eikon’s CEO Jock Goddard (Harrison Ford) promises in a speech filled with hyperbole and hubris, revolutionary new smartphone (the smartphone to end all smartphones). In exchange, Wyatt will wipe away Cassidy’s debt and give him a cool $500,000 (and possibly more), money that will help Cassidy cover medical expenses for his seriously ill father, Frank (Richard Dreyfuss).

To get hired by Eikon and Goddard, however, Cassidy needs a complete makeover, courtesy of Wyatt’s right-hand woman, Judith Bolton (Embeth Davidtz). She has a Ph.D. in organizational psychology and a keenly developed eye for what works and what sells in the corporate world. Cassidy gets a few tailored suits, a new apartment in Manhattan, and tips on pitching himself. Before he can get to Goddard, though, Cassidy has to get hired, a situation slightly complicated by one of the interviewers, Emma Jennings (Amber Heard), the head of marketing for Eikon. Cassidy and Emma had a wild night together (the same night he spent $16,000.00 of Wyatt’s money), but she dismissed him as just another unambitious, if good-looking, member of the “bridge and tunnel” crowd that invades Manhattan on the weekends.

Whether he’s reading his lines in the opening voiceover or talking with any number of unmemorable characters, Hemsworth’s forced to utter a string of cringe-inducing banalities masquerading as profound insights into early 21st-century capitalism.

Emma, of course, comes around to Cassidy’s presumed charms. Despite the give-and-take of their relationship early on, she’s nothing more than the obligatory romantic interest and when needed, the way in to Eikon’s super-secure R&D facility. Cassidy’s duplicity is nothing compared to Wyatt’s and Goddard’s backstabbing and plotting. Both men share a pathological desire to win regardless of the ethical consequences or the human costs. As Wyatt not-so-sagely tells Cassidy early on, right and wrong don’t matter, only winning or losing does. Wyatt and Goddard repeatedly use Cassidy as a seemingly unwitting pawn in their corporate chess game, but he’s usually three or six moves behind. Not surprisingly, Cassidy proves to be a dull, witless hero, incapable of thinking ahead or thinking through the obvious consequences of his actions or those of Wyatt and Goddard.

paranoia-3When Wyatt’s and Goddard’s betrayals force Cassidy into the proverbial corner, his future turns on the help of a former member of Cassidy’s team (and a close personal friend), Kevin (Lucas Till), and a piece of software Cassidy repurposed thanks to a conveniently timed news report. It’s just one more indication of how poorly thought out and executed as a corporate-espionage thriller Paranoia really is. Yet for all of the movie’s flaws, some story-based, some character-based, it’s passably watchable in brief spurts, usually when Oldman and Ford are on the screen (their first collaboration since Air Force One sixteen years ago), with Hemsworth or together in two pivotal scenes (Hemsworth’s in both, but disappears into the furniture), or when Dreyfuss makes another welcome appearance as Cassidy’s unfailingly supportive blue-collar father. With just a few well-timed gestures or inflected line readings, Dreyfuss conveys a multiplicity of emotions and unspoken backstory.

40/100 ~ BAD. For all of the movie’s story-based and character-based flaws, Paranoia is passably watchable in brief spurts.

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Mel Valentin

Staff Film Critic
Mel Valentin hails from the great state of New Jersey. After attending NYU undergrad (politics and economics double major, religious studies minor) and grad school (law), he made the move, physically, mentally, and spiritually to California, specifically San Francisco. Mel's written more than 1,400 film-related reviews and articles. He's a member of the San Francisco Film Critics Circle.