There’s not much paranoia going on in the new Liam Hemsworth film Paranoia. I guess you’re supposed to be questioning who is lying to whom, but there’s so little happening on screen, it’s hard to invest any feelings at all in this insipid thriller. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen another film that needed a RiffTrax accompaniment as badly as Paranoia does.
Adam (Liam Hemsworth) is a brilliant twenty-something working with a group of his friends to come up with ideas for cell phone innovation for the corporation owned by Nicolas Wyatt (Gary Oldman). After a bad mistake, Adam is blackmailed by Wyatt into becoming his spy and getting hired at rival company Eikon, owned by Jock Goddard (Harrison Ford). Soon he is in too deep and realizes not only his life is in danger, but his friends and family as well. Robert Luketic directs, and the film is based on a novel of the same name by Joseph Finder.
Paranoia is just about smartphones. The film attempts to put the weight of life and death on who has a more impressive smartphone. This is only the first of its many, many mistakes.
Usually when I watch a film, I can pretty much pinpoint the audience it has been crafted for. I have absolutely no clue what demographic Paranoia is aimed at. It seems to reject all of its extremely obvious marketing points instead of embracing them, and you wind up watching two hours of what feels like absolutely nothing.
After the first 10 minutes of awkward narration about being a young person struggling, I was convinced that Paranoia is to The Hunger Games what Abduction was to Twilight: a bad thriller capitalizing on the popularity of an explosive teen franchise by casting the good looking side character in its lead. Yet as the film continued, I had to forget that theory when the big players started popping up on screen. If you’ve got Richard Dreyfuss, Gary Oldman, and Harrison Ford in leading roles, you’re not making a film for oblivious preteens. So were they hoping to lure in fans of the extraordinarily talented Oldman, Dreyfuss, and Indiana Jones? I hope not, because the screenplay of this film is written for an audience assumed to be at the intelligence level of toddlers whose parents have allowed them to play Angry Birds on their iThings or whatever.
You may get a laugh out of the intensity which Julian McMahon phones in his performance as Oldman’s hired gun, but aside from that, everyone in Paranoia is flat. You can’t blame the cast; they’ve got absolutely nothing to work with.
The love story is glossed over, without offering an ounce of depth to the relationship between Adam and Emma (Amber Heard). In fact, none of the characters are given any real depth at all. Occasional announcements of their feelings and intentions are basically all there is. Adam goes on a few rants about how he doesn’t want to be like his dad (Richard Dreyfuss), because his dad was a security guard and didn’t make enough money to move out of Brooklyn and into Manhattan, (cue massive eye roll). Despite his dad being an incredibly happy old fellow, we’re informed that Adam needs more. If you’ve ever seen a movie before, I bet you can figure out his character arc from this information alone.
I had high hopes for Liam Hemsworth. He’s hunky and dumb looking like a cro-magnon, but he’s got a soft, smart voice and beautiful eyes. This film is not where he belongs. I don’t think he really belongs in movies with scripts, and even more so, he can’t handle himself in movies with terrible scripts. His few scenes in Triangle (2009), which is a favorite of mine, were fantastic, but he was working with an extremely talented and hands-on director.
Hollywood should be priming him for action movie stardom. His brother has the Thor thing down. Can’t you imagine Liam standing next to Bruce Willis or Jason Statham, as the powerful rebellious youth who has lessons to learn and days to save?
The best parts of this entire film are Gary Oldman’s face, some of Richard Dreyfuss’s throwaway lines of dialogue, and Harrison Ford screaming “Now I’m standing on your neck!” At least two of those things are available in the trailer, so I can’t recommend watching anything more than just that.