Craig's First Take: "Paranoia"

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Adam Cassidy(Liam Hemsworth) is an entry level employee who has been given an opportunity that can change his life. He is propositioned by his boss, Nicholas Wyatt(Gary Oldman), to spy on his adversary, Jock Goddard(Harrison Ford). Robert Luketic directs.
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I’m trying to think of why I should be excited about Liam Hemsworth but it fails me. He’s Gale in “The Hunger Games” but the movies aren’t up to that point where we’re all that worried about Gale. He had a few short scenes in “The Expendables 2” but with all those action movie legends joking around and kicking ass, it’s hard to really remember him. “Paranoia”, based on a novel by Joseph Finder, finds him right in the middle of great actors like Gary Oldman and Harrison Ford. It’s another uphill trek.

He’ Adam, a middle-class cubicle drone trying to make into the big leagues at the Wyatt cell phone corporation. After Adam dips too heavily into the discretionary fund, Wyatt (Oldman) blackmails him into spying on a rival company, Eikon, which is led by Wyatt’s former mentor Jock Goddard (Harrison Ford). We’ve seen what comes next before. Adam’s clothes, car, and apartment suddenly get a lot more upscale and he’s being mentored on how to gain the trust of Goddard and his firm. He also has a flirty chemistry with Emma (Amber Heard), Eikon’s head of marketing, a former one night stand.

“Everyone is stealing from someone” Wyatt says. That’s a good description of “Paranoia”. But despite the derivative nature of this whole thing (at one point Wyatt even tells Adam “You’re only out when I say you’re out”), it also seems smarter than average. Goddard and Wyatt, each played with powerful glee by Oldman and Ford (it’s great when these two go head to head as well), are set up as villainous one-percenters and I liked the privacy and ethics concerns brought up about cell companies giving their phones more capabilities than just calling, texting, and giving Anthony Wiener something to do.

And Hemsworth, while not called upon to do much but look handsome, definitely has a likable charm and the character is written well enough to side with him, especially when his insurance runs out on his ailing father (a funny Richard Dreyfuss). Heard on the other hand has nothing to do but play the clueless love interest. Director Robert Luketic seems to be trying to up the interest in this movie by filming his young stars as sexily as the PG-13 rating will allow though, and a scene where Adam tears his house apart looking for cameras looks like dramatic overkill.

But overall “Paranoia” was a tough call for me, which I did not expect. It’s far from suspenseful throughout and at times it lost me completely but when it relies on its strong suits- this cast, a few good twists, the provocative way it has with technology and issues of class- it actually isn’t so bad. It feels like something you can wait for rental but definitely not a complete fail.