The 400-Word Review: Paranoia
By Sean Collier
August 19, 2013
How’s this strike you for a plot: Two smart-phone moguls driven apart by jealousy and pride. A young tech guru swept into the dark world of corporate espionage. A revolutionary mobile prototype behind an impenetrable firewall.
Yup, I’m already bored, too.
Paranoia, a suspense-less thriller from notably untalented director Robert Luketic, aims for Hitchcockian intensity in a modern setting. Unfortunately, none of the principals involved have the wherewithal to make Paranoia even slightly engaging — let alone enthralling enough to make the audience forget they’re stuck watching a movie about cell phone design.
Our hero is Liam Hemsworth, younger brother of Thor’s Chris, best known as one of the key players in the Hunger Games franchise. Here, he’s a hotshot young programmer cast off by his tech giant employers after he gets mouthy with the CEO during a pitch meeting. Sensing a certain malleability in the young man (a trait absent in the ho-hum actor), the mogul (Gary Oldman) draws him back in for an allegedly sinister assignment.
The company is getting kicked around by a rival firm, see, and somebody needs to steal the prototype for their next big thing (a curvy, overly invasive smartphone, or something). And so our protagonist needs to cozy up with a different old techie (Harrison Ford) and, inevitably, a striking young marketing exec (Amber Heard) or face the ill-defined consequences.
The idea was to close the walls in around our lead; Luketic and crew tried to turn the corporate observers into intense, omnipresent monitors controlling the young spy’s movements and motivations. It’s neither convincing by the film’s own stakes nor believable as a premise. Moreover, Luketic isn’t nearly skilled enough to do much more than present the film’s mild twists and turns; even low-budget horror flicks have more tricks up their sleeve.
Unfortunately, Paranoia doesn’t have an actor to sell the story, either. Hemsworth just plain can’t act, and lacks his older brother’s charisma. Ford and Oldman certainly know what they’re doing, but they neglect to employ their talents meaningfully here; the same can be said of Richard Dreyfuss, appearing in a purely plot-device role as Hemsworth’s father.
It adds up to a pointless, if inoffensive, yarn. If there was intrigue in the source material, a moderately well-received novel by Joseph Finder, it stayed on the page. Paranoia may not be the worst movie of the year, but it’s easily the most forgettable.
Sean Collier is the Associate Editor of Pittsburgh Magazine and a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Read more from Sean at pittsburghmagazine.com/afterdark