Stars: Harrison Ford, Gary Oldman, Liam Hemsworth, Amber Heard, Julian McMahon, Embeth Davidtz, Richard Dreyfuss, Lucas Till, Angela Sarafyan and Kevin Kilner.
Writers: Jason Dean Hall and Barry Levy; based upon the novel by Joseph Finder.
Director: Robert Luketic
Afforded just enough effort from everyone involved to see it through its late US-summer release date, Robert Luketic’s blah techno-thriller Paranoia employs all the tropes and red herrings required to pad its micro-chip thin premise out to a respectable running-time. Otherwise, the tempting pairing of Indiana Jones and Dracula is a wan non-event.
Adapting Joseph Finder’s novel, screenwriters Barry Levy (Vantage Point, 2008) and novice Jason Dean Hall aim for a fresh, smart-phone era take on tech-thrillers like Phil Alden Robinson’s Sneakers (1992), but Luketic fails to convey any of that films excitement, urgency or sense of fun. Given the Australian director is still best known for 2001’s vibrant Legally Blonde, the dour dramatics of Paranoia are particularly hard to fathom.
One’s first reaction may be why on Earth talents like Harrison Ford and Gary Oldman would bother with this sort of programmer but, in fact, stars have been filling their down time and bank balance with dross like this since the biz began. Remember Johnny Depp’s Nick of Time? Tom Cruise’s Knight and Day? Al Pacino’s The Recruit? No one does (least of all, most likely, the actors themselves) and nor will anyone involved recall Paranoia by the time it hits home video shelves in about six weeks.
Aussie export Liam Hemsworth plays it ultra-safe in his first leading man role, his he-man physique and bushy eye-browed good looks front and centre in lieu of any real character depth. He plays Adam Cassidy, a hotshot developer for ruthless Brit CEO Nicholas Wyatt’s (Gary Oldman) comm-tech mega-corporation. When he unwittingly puts himself in a compromising position, Cassidy becomes Wyatt’s tool; via nefarious (and boldly ridiculous) means, Cassidy compromises his beliefs and agrees to infiltrate the upper echelons of Wyatt’s fierce rival and ex-business partner Jock Goddard’s (a startlingly bald Harrison Ford) competing market leader.
There are peripheral support parts that the producers fill with quality co-stars as a means by which to give dramatically inert subplots some onscreen oomph. Richard Dreyfuss as Cassidy’s hard-working, blue-collar dad (a role that carries with it the same heavy-handed symbolism as Martin Sheen’s part did in Wall Street); Julian McMahon and Embeth Davidtz as Wyatt’s shady offsiders; a likable Lucas Till as Adam’s best mate and the barely glimpsed Josh Holloway as an FBI investigator all do what needs doing.
Most hard done by is Amber Heard who, as Goddard’s recruitment exec Emma Jennings, is relegated to the sexy but soft corporate stereotype who serves no greater purpose than to be the leading man’s ultimate reward. Since her attention-grabbing role in 2006’s All The Boys Love Mandy Lane, Heard has been skirting super-stardom while doing admirable duty in flops Drive Angry, The Rum Diary and The Joneses and little-seen indies The Ward, And Soon The Darkness and The River Why. She exudes integrity and strength in the right role; in Paranoia, you can almost see her grinding her teeth.
As the plot thickens, the contrivances multiply. Most irksome – everyone is at the cutting-edge of technology, until it is convenient to forget or overlook the most basic communications system so as the story can proceed. The most heavily-guarded tech secrets in the smart-phone business are infiltrated in a whim; the security team in charge of the complex seems to number about three, and is led by one of those types that yell “He’s in the stairwell!” a lot. The ambient electro-pulse soundtrack of Dutch techno-guru Tom Holkenboirg, aka Junkie XL, fails to convince that this is a very old B-movie heist caper hoping to look very modern.