Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Paranoia (2013)

**This review contains spoilers**

Fed up with being an entry level scrub at the Wyatt Corporation, Adam Cassidy (Liam Hemsworth) puts all of his eggs in one basket with a presentation, that could change his ordinary life. With his teammates and friends by his side, Adam gives it his all with a pitch about a new technology for social media, but Adam’s presentation doesn’t impress Nicholas Wyatt (Gary Oldman), the owner and boss of the Wyatt Corporation. The failure of the presentation and a smart remark costs Adam and his friends their jobs, but Adam decides to get a little payback by using a company credit card to run up a sixteen thousand dollar bill at a night club with his friends.

The very next day, Adam is taken back to the Wyatt Corporation against his will by Wyatt’s enforcer and personal bodyguard, Miles Meechum (Julian McMahon). Threatening to press charges against Adam for credit card fraud, Wyatt gives Adam a choice: he can either go to jail, or he can accept a mission from Wyatt to become a spy and infiltrate the Eikon Corporation, Wyatt’s top competitor, so he can learn about and eventually steal a prototype that will change the landscape for technology, and give US soldiers a better fighting chance in the battle field. Using jail time and the hopes of providing a better life for himself and his ill father, Frank (Richard Dreyfuss) as motivation, Adam accepts the offer.

Courtesy of Wyatt’s team and his top assistant, Judith (Embeth Davidtz), Adam receives a makeover, so he can look the part of a hot shot executive with new suits and a lavish apartment. After his first presentation, Adam catches the eye and gains the trust of Jock Goddard (Harrison Ford), Wyatt’s former mentor turned rival and the owner of Eikon. But to pull of the heist, Adam must deceive, Emma Jennings (Amber Heard), Eikon’s Director Of Marketing, and Adam will have to fight his feelings for Emma after a one night stand with Emma before his mission started.

Adam has second thoughts about his promise to Wyatt after receiving a warning from an FBI agent named Gamble (Josh Holloway), but Wyatt uses Frank’s life as collateral, if Adam decides to pull out. Adam is given a deadline to steal the prototype after Wyatt senses betrayal, but at the last possible second, Jock pulls a trump card, that will alter the course of Adam’s mission.

Make no mistake about it. Liam Hemsowrth is the biggest problem here, because the entire story revolves around his character. Hemsworth is such a dull, boring, and uninteresting leading man. And I’m sorry, but he’s not believable as this suave and crafty businessman/whiz kid, who’s one step ahead of everyone else. I have no real complaints about Amber Heard’s performance, but her character is so clichéd (more on that later). Julian McMahon is just there, and he could’ve been replaced by anyone else. And I wish Josh Holloway had more screen time. He had so much potential, as the hard ass FBI agent, but his character is limited to sporadic appearances (in fact, I only counted three: the one at the bar, the one at the house, where Gamble goes to warn Adam about Wyatt, and at the end during the big arrests).

So yeah, the veterans take the cake here. Richard Dreyfuss steals every scene he’s in, making Hemsworth look more inferior in the process. Gary Oldman and Harrison Ford are fantastic here. Oldman is so slimy and detestable throughout the movie, as the rich and power hungry corporate asshole. Ford has his moments as a vulnerable old man, but towards the end, when Jock shows his true colors, Ford does a wonderful job of transforming himself into a villain, who’s just as (if not more) despicable than Oldman.

The rivalry between Jock and Wyatt is the driving force behind Paranoia. Oldman and Ford really sold the hatred and bitterness between both men, and their face to face duels are the highlights of this film. I’m pretty sure you’ve all seen this part in the trailers and TV spots, but it’s a lot more intense, when you actually see it in the film, and the events leading up to it. Jock and Wyatt are going at it, and the heated part of the argument concludes with this:


Jock: “And now I’m standing on your neck!”

Unfortunately, Paranoia is suffocated by too many clichéd characters. Adam is the typical Average Joe, who wants a better life, and he’s willing to do anything to get it, until he realizes he went too far and made a mistake. Amber Heard’s Emma is a horribly bland “strong woman in the business world, who outworks all the men to prove her worth.” Yeah, Ford and Oldman’s characters are power hungry business men, but they get a pass from me, because their performances are the backbone of this film.

And the predictability? Yikes. Paranoia deserves some credit for a handful of genuinely shocking twists at the end, but the through the motions story before the big finale almost put me to sleep. Adam wanting to back out of Wyatt’s deal, Emma giving Adam a second chance, and falling in love with him after the one night stand, Adam wanting a second chance with Emma after he betrays her, Adam setting the wheels in motion to turn the tables on Wyatt and Jock, and of course, when Adam tries to steal the prototype, everything goes wrong. Oh, and giving away a lot of the major plot points in the trailers didn’t help anything.

Plus, Paranoia is loaded with “Big Brother” material. Adam is being monitored by Miles and other Wyatt associates at his apartment with surveillance cameras, and the Big Brother paranoia (no pun intended) is a reoccurring theme throughout this movie. My reaction to the Big Brother themes and social commentary? Meh. It’s nothing you haven’t seen before in other mainstream mystery suspense thrillers, and the fancy technology and cool graphics couldn’t help Paranoia stand out amongst the pack. 

With all that said, I didn’t hate Paranoia. As a thriller, yeah Paranoia is a snoozer and pretty generic (you can see the dramatic big arrests scene and downfall of empires aftermath/ending coming from a mile away), but it’s hard to take your eyes off of Ford and Oldman (Richard Dreyfuss deserves credit too), especially when they’re on screen together. Paranoia definitely had the potential to be a better thriller. With a different director (Robert Luketic‘s style is very bland, and for a thriller, Paranoia is severely lacking in the suspense and thrills department ) and a better leading man, Paranoia could’ve been one of the better summer films this year, easily.

Rating: 4/10

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