Beware the Ides of August. Yes, I realize that Caesar was betrayed and murdered in March. But, when it comes to motion picture release dates, August can be a bit of a cinematic dumping ground. It’s the time that production companies dispose of the celluloid corpses that have been eaten up by the corporate film-making machine and deserve to be put out of their misery in front of the smallest audiences possible. The lackluster, non-thriller Paranoia should be a direct-to-DVD release. Instead, it gets the full theatrical August treatment because someone’s contract says it does.
The premise of the film is simple, way too simple. Hunky Adam Cassidy (Liam Hemsworth) gets fired from his job with a technology firm and decides it’s a good idea to throw a $ 16,000.00 party for his friends at a local club on his corporate expense account before the party-poopers in accounting “officially” cut him off. Adam’s boss, Nicolas Wyatt (Gary Oldman), doesn’t care for Adam’s larceny and gives him a choice: Answer to criminal charges for his theft/fraud or join the company run by Wyatt’s rival, Jock Goddard (Harrison Ford), and play the role of corporate mole.
Naturally, the rival company has a hot marketing director, Emma Jennings (Amber Heard), and in no time, Adam is sleeping with the enemy and uncertain where his true loyalties lie. Throw in a father with emphysema played by Richard Dreyfuss for the occasional “we wouldn’t want something bad to befall your dad” leverage, and you have a paint-by-numbers “thriller” that manages to hit on every cliché to appear in a film about corporate espionage.
Paranoia is the type of film that chooses to tell you things instead of showing them to you firsthand. Premise #1: We’re told that Adam is a hotshot whiz kid who Goddard would love to bring into the fold, so he’s the perfect mole. Then why do we only see Adam when he’s either acting like an imbecile or botching the only presentation he’s ever made to his boss. Premise # 2: Emma Jennings is a brilliant marketing director who is catapulting Goddard to the top of the tech heap. How do we know this? Because people keep pointing out that she has an Ivy League education, and she wears really expensive looking clothes. Premise # 3: Goddard is developing a cell phone that will change the world. How do we know this? Because he keeps it in a big fancy vault that is thumbprint protected, so it must be awesome. (I could go on for pages, but you get the idea.)
The film is based on the novel of the same name by best-selling author Joseph Finder. Although I have not read Paranoia, I have always found Mr. Finder’s novels to be intricate thrillers populated by well-rounded characters. So, I can only assume that screenwriters Jason Dean Hall and Barry Levy have given us the cinematic Cliff’s Notes version populated with cardboard characters and simple-minded plot twists. The only thing that will surprise the audience is just how bad this film can be.
When it comes to the performances, never let it be said that only women are exploited in Hollywood. Liam Hemsworth is shown in a swimming pool, in a shower, and in a towel in the first thirty minutes of the film. If the audience did a shot every time he appeared shirtless, they would be fall-down drunk by the mid-point of the film. And, as I think about it, that would probably be the best way to watch the end of the film. At one point, I felt certain that Adam Cassidy worked for Abercrombie & Fitch and was supposed to steal the latest fall designs, but then I remembered that all the pretty people had built a really cool whatchamacallit, and everyone was trying to steal that.
The only time that Paranoia works is when Oldman and Ford share the screen. They glower and sneer with enthusiasm, and you truly believe they are corporate rivals out to destroy one another. However, the veteran actors only share the screen for three scenes that total less than ten minutes, so the audience’s enjoyment is fleeting to say the least.
This review seems a little bit like piling on. Paranoia posted the single worst opening weekend of 2013, and it’s the worst premiere of Harrison Ford’s career. The upside for Ford is that he was paid eight figures to star in this flop. The upside for the audience? I’m sorry to report that there is none.
5 out of 10
The Movie Isle
Scott Phillips holds a degree in print journalism from the University of Georgia and is currently a member of the Georgia Film Critics Association (GAFCA). In addition to his role as a correspondent for Timed Edition, Scott serves as the Executive Editor and Senior Writer for themovieisle.com. From 2013 through 2017, he reviewed films for filmdispenser.com. Along with his duties as a critic, Scott serves as the Content Programmer for the Way Down Film Festival held in Columbus, Georgia every fall.