Quality excitement comes sparingly in Paranoia, the new paint-by-numbers thriller from Robert Luketic (Legally Blonde; 21). Tracking the complex blackmail of tech up-and-comer Adam Cassidy (Liam Hemsworth) by his boss Nicolas Wyatt (a bored Gary Oldman), the film feels a lot like The Firm but even more like another John Grisham novel, The Associate. Based on the novel by Joseph Finder, who’s drawn comparisons to Grisham, the plotting and characterizations are purely of the disposable airport paperback nature. As such, one’s attention is held just enough to avoid losing consciousness, but not by much.
Competently shot and edited with decent performances overall, Paranoia nonetheless takes the form of a cinematic checklist. Somewhere down the form, Adam finds a requisite love interest in Emma Jennings (Amber Heard), meeting in one of the more unimaginative methods possible by making eyes across a crowded dance floor. Naturally, she’s the Director of Marketing at Eicorp, the company run by Wyatt’s former boss Jock Goddard (Harrison Ford), which Adam is tasked with infiltrating. With that kind of name, it’s disappointing to find that Ford’s character isn’t actually a “Jacques,” a spelling would likely have resulted in a nutty French accent, which in turn would have provided the film some much needed camp.
Instead, Paranoia is straightforward to the point that all involved seem uninterested in having fun, a tone that rubs off on the audience as well. Rich in technological wonders, even these charms are rendered bland by a fury of jargon-filled explanations. There’s also a disconnect between Wyatt’s threats and his henchman’s ability to follow through when Adam shows signs of disobeying. Despite a surveillance-filled existence, Adam is suspiciously able to mostly roam free without sufficient explanation for his continued survival.
Also of concern is the minor detail of the titular mindset’s near absence. Though Adam is unquestionably in a pickle and one that results in a good deal of mental strain, few moments express (per Webster’s definition) “a psychosis characterized by systematized delusions of persecution or grandeur usually without hallucinations.” Wyatt’s intentions are clearly stated, as are the consequences for deviation. His monitoring of Adam’s doings is likewise simply part of the deal and at no point does Adam blow the situations reality out of proportion. Failing to realize this basic component is unfortunate, but Paranoia isn’t exactly aiming for any grand distinctions. Its sights are purely set on entertainment, and even through its uninspired means, it delivers on this goal more than not.
Rated PG-13 for some sexuality, violence and language.
Paranoia is currently playing at the Carolina Cinemas on Hendersonville Rd.