Paranoia. Directed by Robert Luketic. Starring Liam Hemsworth, Amber Heard, Gary Oldman and Harrison Ford.
Rating: 4 (out of 10)
At first glance this is another film about the Occupy Wall Street crowd going up against big corporate greed. In fact, Paranoia is more retro than that, telling the Working
Girl-type story of a boy with big dreams of making it across the Hudson River.
Liam Hemsworth tells us as much in a voiceover introduction, lamenting that "the lights always look brighter across the river". Alas Adam is stuck in the boroughs caring for his ill father (Richard Dreyfuss) and is refused entry to fancy clubs because he only owns hoodies.
Adam is an entry-level programmer at a high-tech company. He and his fellow cubicledwellers pitch an idea to the head of the firm, the arrogant Mr. Wyatt (Gary Oldman, inexplicably borrowing Dick Van Dyke's Mary Poppins accent). "It was our time to shine," Adam tells us, but his cocksuredness manages to get them all fired instead.
The group decides to stick it to the man by drinking P. Diddy's vodka, racking up a five-figure bill on a corporate credit card which somehow wasn't cancelled when Adam got the boot. He is called into the office the next day, where Wyatt proposes a way to avoid fraud and embezzlement charges.
Apparently Wyatt sees something in his swindling former employee, some passion in Adam that we, the audience, cannot. He takes Adam to a guarded fortress where his assistant (Embeth Davidtz) and a tailor (of course) transform Adam from hipster to corporate executive in a single weekend. His mission? Infiltrate a rival tech company run by Wyatt's nemesis Jock Goddard (Harrison Ford) and get the goods. "A good artist copies, a great artist steals," explains Wyatt, quoting Picasso and Steve Jobs.
Parting his hair differently and not wearing socks works wonders: Adam gets a killer corner office, a swanky apartment, and a legitimate second chance at a girl (Amber Heard) with whom he shared a one-night stand back when he wore those hoodies. This allows ample time to see Hemsworth shirtless.
People seem to open up to Adam a little too easily. He starts stealing trade secrets but feels bad. He feels even worse when an FBI agent knocks on his door, showing him pictures of all the slain Wyatt protégés who preceded him. Adam wants out, but Wyatt's henchman (Nip/Tuck's Julian McMahon) keeps chasing him with guns, and ominously flipping his lighter, so we know things are bad.
There are plenty of spy-store gizmos to distract us from the notable lack of real tension, things like body scans, silicone thumbprints, retinal scans, military GPS and hidden cameras aplenty. If everyone is so paranoid, why then do characters test weapons-grade technology in the middle of a bar? Don't they know they should get a booth? Director Robert Luketic, mainly a director of romantic fare such as The Ugly Truth and Legally Blonde, relies overmuch on slowmotion and micro-stuttering frame effects in order to inject pizzazz into the proceedings. But a script culled from Joseph Finder's novel is too full of clichés to feel current ("there's no right or wrong, just winning and losing," "competition fuels innovation") and actors look weary with the effort.
Hemsworth looks the part but simply doesn't have the heft to execute his leading role. His one-note style makes Adam seem like kind of a jerk, putting down his dad and lying to his girl, and any revelation he has seems disingenuous. There's no character to root for, no heart, and all else feels like window dressing.