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Paranoia (A Movie Review)

Updated: Mar 27, 2023



Starring Liam Hemsworth, Gary Oldman, Harrison Ford, Amber Heard, Lucas Till, Richard Dreyfuss, Embeth Davidtz, Julian McMahon, Josh Holloway, Angela Sarafyan, William Peltz, Kevin Kilner, Christine Marzano, Charlie Hofheimer and Mark Moses.

Screenplay by Jason Hall and Barry L. Levy.

Directed by Robert Luketic.

Distributed by Relativity Media. 106 minutes. Rated PG-13.

We all know that the business world has become a cutthroat, dog-eat-dog, morals-free zone.

Paranoia is basically about a high-tech, high stakes pissing match between two multi-millionaire telecom CEOs. Jack Goddard (Harrison Ford) and Nicolas Wyatt (Gary Oldman) had started out in the business together – Goddard was the face and personality of the company; Wyatt was the brains. Eventually, Wyatt decided he was tired of making someone else rich, so he started his own company. Years later, they run the two largest tech companies in the world – but Wyatt is still fuming that his old boss is still above him.

For the record, Harrison Ford's old-school up-from-the-streets exec is much more personable and eventually horrifying than Gary Oldman's effete techno snob.

In the middle of their private little war appears Adam Cassidy (Liam Hemsworth), a Brooklyn bridge and tunnel guy who works for WyattCorp and has big dreams of becoming rich and powerful. Still, he lives with his sickly dad (Richard Dreyfuss), has just found out that his medical insurance won't cover his dad's treatments, and he was barely making ends meet as it was.

When a botched presentation leads to his whole team being fired (wow, they play for high stakes over at Wyatt!), Adam decides to get a little payback by throwing a final $16,000.00 blow-out for his friends on the not-quite-shut-off company credit card.

When Wyatt inevitably calls him on this little embezzlement, Adam promises that he will pay the debt, even though he has no idea where he will get the money. Wyatt agrees that he will pay it off – but he will do it by becoming a mole in Goddard's company. Wyatt manufactures a reason for Goddard to want to poach Adam and then sends him into the lion's den.

Yes, granted, Adam is being used as a pawn. But still, he completely abandons his business ethics without any hesitation. He lies, cheats, steals, ignores his friends, condescends to his father and double crosses his girlfriend. All the while, he claims that he is just trying to do what he has to do to get what is his.

They just don't make heroes like they used to.

Adam is taught how to fit in at Goddard's company by a slimy psychiatrist (Embeth Davidtz) and also intimidated by Oldman's deadly right-hand man, played by Julian McMahon of Nip/Tuck. (I hate to bring up a physical attribute about any actor, but it's been years and it just has to be asked: What's the deal with McMahon's eyebrows?)

Adam gets hired, right away makes a huge splash and befriends his new boss. (Who ominously says more than once that Adam reminds him of Wyatt when he was young.)

And by strange coincidence, Emma (Amber Heard), the gorgeous girl with whom Adam had the one-night stand on this blowout night ends up working for Goddard. Who saw that coming? Of course they fall in love. And Adam likes his new boss. So he is torn.

Little does he know that both of the men have been pulling his strings from the beginning.

So, are we really supposed to get all worked up to see if a self-centered creep gets out from under the thumbs of two other self-centered creeps?

It's a shame, because there is a good cast putting on this silly show.

Hemsworth and Amber Heard, while both simply gorgeous, have little to no onscreen chemistry. Seriously, the closest to romantic banter these two pull off is a scene where they flirtily toss out techno-geek terms over lunch. Of course, these two stunners could only be geeks in Hollywood.

The two big stars, Ford and Oldman, do what they can with their underwritten characters. Oldman uses his natural inclination to over-act mercilessly, making Wyatt such a cartoonish buffoon that the audience waits eagerly for his eventual, inevitable comeuppance. (Of course, that also means the movie will probably be ending soon, which is a nice bonus.) Ford on the other hand soft pedals it, playing his character so subtly that he doesn't make much of an impression one way or the other until then end, when he finally lets loose some method madness.

And Dreyfuss, who spends pretty much the whole film in a recliner, on a stoop or on a hospital bed (he does get out to play one scene in some bleachers, too), takes yet another backwards step in a once very respected career. This guy starred in undisputed classics like Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and American Graffiti and won a Best Actor Oscar for The Goodbye Girl, ferchrissakes. Can't he get a decent role anymore?

Then again, that can be said about pretty much everyone who is in Paranoia.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2013 All rights reserved. Posted: August 16, 2013.


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