Movie Review: 'Paranoia' (2013)

It had all of the trappings of a successful film; promising young talent and established acting icon, Gary Oldman. The results were less than stellar. ‘Paranoia’ centers on the battle of two tech kings as they battle for corporate domination with one side (Gary Oldman) employing a cocky hipster to foil his career-long foe. In all honesty, if you’ve seen the trailer, you've seen the movie.

The storyline isn’t all that complicated though the heavy technical jargon; attempts to make you feel like you are listening to a master class in cyber knowledge. Amidst this corporate battle backdrop, finding a character to root for is next to impossible and can be boiled down to the adage of “pick your poison”. Gary Oldman’s Wyatt does garner the edge, his overall charm and charisma putting him leagues in front of Harrison Ford and Liam Hemsworth.

‘Paranoia’ in its poorly executed direction, serves as a good reminder of how important the director is to making a movie that works. Here Robert Luketic (Legally Blonde, 21) over-directs every scene. He overuses slow motion for dramatic effect, keeps long tracking shots on spoons and loses any sense of urgency throughout most of the film.

For instance, during a chase scene; a character will simply begin to walk during a pursuit, after the attacker has apparently gotten tired off-screen. He loses several incidents of momentum and plods along, apparently trying to savor a non-existent performance by lead, Liam Hemsworth.

It is also worth mentioning that the musical score is practically non-existent and when it does blare in, it is over-the-top for what is taking place on-screen. Not to mention in a parallel universe that has Oldman and Ford’s company squaring off for domination both use Apple products, so it seems that these two “giants” are, in actuality, fighting for second place in the technological race. 

As far as performances go, this was a career definer for Hemsworth, who to this point, is mostly known to the pop culture world as Miley Cyrus’s boyfriend and Thor’s (Chris Hemsworth) little brother. Having seen him in other roles, he hadn’t been in them enough to prove his capabilities as a leading man, one way or another. Well the answer this movie provides as to his future as a leading man would be “not happening”.

He plays his character, Adam, with a smug defiance and while, the script doesn’t give him much to work with in terms of sympathy, he doesn’t help matters. There is no point during the movie that you root for his character.

Hemsworth’s chemistry with love interest, Emma, played by Amber Heard also fails to hit the mark. Heard’s past work supports the notion that she could create chemistry with a brick wall and her chemistry with Hemsworth, amounts to just about that, in the literal sense.

Their whole interaction is to put it mildly, awkward. Heard, an actress of great skill is left to hold the bag in a thankless girlfriend role. The movie would’ve been better with a gender reversal, starring Heard as the lead.

Gary Oldman executes his role as Nicholas Wyatt with passion and drive, making him sympathetic. Oldman’s characterization jumps off the screen and his intensity burrows holes through both Hemsworth and Harrison Ford. Despite the trailer’s editing, Ford is probably in the film for about 10 minutes and when he is, he growls and mumbles most of his dialogue.

The infamous line from the trailer “And now I’m standing on your neck!” is snarled with the disdain of a rabid dog without any of the bite. As bold as he is trying to be, it rings hollow, his bluster bringing no luster. 

The always endearing, Richard Dreyfuss, is so sympathetic in the role Adam’s (Hemsworth) father that it makes Hemsworth’s character look even worse. This is another area where the film fails because Hemsworth fails to deliver any believable father/son chemistry with the lovable Dreyfuss.

Josh Holloway (Lost) and Julian McMahon (Nip/Tuck, Fantastic Four) are in throw away roles that their talent manages to break out from under when given the chance. Both deserve a lot more in terms of screen roles.

The film can at best be described as scattershot without enough activity to really warrant that critique. 'Paranoia' is ‘The Social Network’ plus ‘Duplicity’ plus ‘Anti-Trust’ minus any of their entertainment value. Albeit, ‘Duplicity’ was awful and ‘The Social Network’ was universally overrated as a masterpiece. If you are interested in a corporate espionage thriller, ‘Anti-Trust’ starring Tim Robbins is a much better film that despite its age, packs more of a contemporary punch. Rating: 5.5/10