– Summary –
Director : Robert Luketic
Year Of Release : 2013
Principal Cast : Liam Hemsworth, Gary Oldman, Harrison Ford, Amber Heard, Lucas Till, Richard Dreyfuss, Julian McMahon, Josh Holloway, Angela Sarafyan.
Approx Running Time : 90 Minutes
Synopsis: An up-and-coming tech whiz is blackmailed into performing industrial espionage between two successful communications companies in New York.
What we think : Utterly generic, low-range espionage thriller is virtually tension-free save for the moment Harrison Ford and Gary Oldman appear on screen together. Hemsworth provides a lot of eye candy, but not much else, as this paper-thin plot and see-it-coming twists unwinds itself.
Paranoia. Will annoy ya.
I am the first to admit that film-making is an art that doesn’t always succeed. For every massive success, there’s a dozen or so lesser films making up the bulk of an annual release schedule, and Paranoia fits neatly into the mold of the latter. It’s a disposable, cliched, join-the-dots “thriller”, where the thrills come only from seeing the end credits roll, and seeing screen legends Harrison Ford and Gary Oldman square-off against each other with some hackneyed dialogue. A film designed to catapult Liam Hemsworth – brother of Chris, and co-star of the Hunger Games franchise – into A-list status, a design flawed by one immutable fact: Hemsworth the Younger ain’t an A-list star. He’s part of the white-noise flow of cookie-cutter, square-jawed wannabe “hunk” types, who flex their jawlines to provide an emotional range approximating that of a chunk of timber. Throw in Amber Heard, who looks amazing but is given little to do here other than be the female love interest, as well as Oldman and Ford, and the scene is set for one of the most forgettable techno-thrillers to come along in the last few years.
Adam (Liam Hemsworth) is a cube-worker for tech giant run by Nicolas Wyatt (Gary Oldman), who loses his job after a pitch goes bad. Wyatt sees in Adam a chance to steal information from Wyatt’s competitor, Eikon Corporation, which is run by Wyatt’s one-time mentor, Jock Goddard (Harrison Ford). Wyatt blackmails Adam into going to work as Eikon in order to steal sensitive product-launch information, which Adam – who is nearly broke – is forced to agree to. Adam’s father Frank (Richard Dreyfuss) tries to convince Adam to go to the FBI and do the right thing, but Adam believes he can solve his problems on his own. Eikon’s marketing manager, Emma Jennings (Amber Heard) and Adam begin a relationship, which leads Adam into a situation where his heart and head are leading him in two different direction; inevitably, a showdown between the two entrepreneurial juggernauts looms as Adam tries to extricate himself from a potentially dealy situation.
The last time Harrison Ford and Gary Oldman squared off, it was in Wolfgang Petersen’s action classic Air Force One, with Ford playing the US President, and Oldman the central terrorist Bad Guy. Robert Luketic’s inability to create any kind of dramatic tension in Paranoia (which, by rights, should be filled with tension) leaves the eventual Ford/Oldman face-off to wither and die on the vine, at the back end of this boring, somewhat predictable film. It’s not entirely Luketic’s fault either, thanks to a listless and generic screenplay from Barry Levy and James Dean Hall, which gives Hemsworth’s Adam the character arc of a tree stump and the techno-gobbledygook involved an almost science-fiction-y, that’s-impossible slant. Paranoia’s perfunctory plotting, which develops all the characters except the one which matters (Adam, if you can’t keep up), slugs along with the dexterity and inventiveness of a dead kitten, with missed opportunity after missed opportunity blowing across the screen with a regularity so sharp it’s positively frustrating.
Liam Hemsworth isn’t the worlds greatest thespian, no matter his ancestry and links to his more famous brother. As Adam, Hemsworth is an emotionless, passionless blank slate, moving through a film with the grace of a thunderous fart, and emoting via raising an eyebrow, trembling a lip, or just flat-out using an expression I have termed “looking somewhat concerned”. The fact that Adam is so distant from the audience means the film must be propped up by the supporting cast, none of whom are given anything even remotely interesting to do. Goldman and Ford are old stagers, and lift their time in the film simply by being as cool as they are, yet Ford looks bored by it all, and Oldman affects a weirdly out-of-place British accent that smacks an awful lot like “oi Guv’ner” Victorian slang. At least they try and imbue their characters with some kind of reality, but it’s a stretch, thanks to the limited plot development. They really just become Generic Film Bad Guys. Amber Heard is all sleek and style as Emma, who works hard to have any kind of chemistry with Hemsworth, only to fail with inept direction by Luketic. Between her and Adam, it’s hard to figure out who has the most development – I think we learn more about Emma in ten minutes than we do about Adam throughout the entire film. Watch out for Richard Dreyfuss, acting Hemsworth off the screen in all their scenes together, as Adam’s father.
Aussie director Luketic has a style I’d equate with that of Brett Ratner – generic. There’s no real impact to anything Luketic tries to bring to the film, with irritating “action” scenes and a boring, by-the-numbers genre playbook sensibility that never works, thanks to the script’s inherent flaws. While I grant Luketic some leeway thanks to the screenplay, Paranoia’s utter lack of conviction in what it’s doing is entirely his fault. At least give the film some kind of energy, man; make us believe this kind of scenario is at least plausible. As it is, the film stumbles between the shiny canyons of Manhattan’s financial district, the tree-soaked landscape of the Hamptons, and the lower class Brooklyn urban jungle with the fluidity of collapsing jenga pieces. The film manages to skirt complete ineptitude by at least looking good – lensed by David Tattersall, Paranoia’s shiny, Hollywood-sheen visuals are some nice eye-candy to counteract the lack of intellectual stimulation.
It’s something of a shame that Paranoia feels like a film designed simply to fill a schedule. It’s poorly written, badly put together and lacks any genuine emotive content. Hemsworth sullies his career with this dreck, the kind of passionless, look-into-middle-distance-and-glower performance that made Taylor Lautner and Taylor Kitsch the flavor of the month a year or so ago. The premise is vaguely interesting, yet never flies with the poor scripting and Luketic’s workmanlike direction; the end result is a film with no bite, no piss-and-vinegar, no energy at all. If you must, okay then. Otherwise, skip it.