Film review: PARANOIA, from Built For Speed

In a plot line suspiciously reminiscent of Oliver Stone’s Wall Street, director Robert Luketic’s tepid corporate espionage thriller Paranoia sees another smart, ambitious young guy, who is desperate to escape his working class background, wind up seduced and manipulated by a corporate Satan.

Liam Hemsworth plays Adam Cassidy, a lowly software engineer who mistakenly thinks he has the technological ideas to elevate him to corporate high-flyer status.  After a pitch to his company boss Nick Wyatt (Gary Oldman) goes so badly that Adam and his friends are fired, Adam unbelievably drops himself in it further by partying on a Wyatt’s credit card to the tune of 16 grand. Charged with misuse of funds, Adam is offered a way out if he’s can infiltrate rival company Eicon run by Wyatt’s nemesis and former mentor Jock Goddard (Harrison Ford) and steal valuable corporate secrets. Adam soon discovers that the game into which he has been drawn is bigger and more dangerous than he could have imagined.

This film might be full of slick, shiny 21st century design and cutting edge communications technology but it plays like a second rate 90’s conspiracy theory potboiler.  Consequently, just about every plot twist is completely predictable even though the film tries to misdirect the audience about who the real villain is.

Paranoia is also seething with clichés.  The bad guys cruise around in black vehicles swiping people off the street, Adam and the villainous Wyatt engage in an (oh so symbolic) chess battle and Adam’s Dad played by Richard Dreyfus (in a disappointingly limited role) is the innocent but wise, salt-of-the earth working-class guy.  Also, Wyatt’s evil henchman (Julian McMahon) wears black the entire time just in case we weren’t sure that he was meant to be sinister.

The film touches on pertinent issues like the twisted psychology of a morally compromised corporate America still reeling from the GFC but it doesn’t investigate such issues with any depth.  The film also attempts to evoke fears about disappearing privacy and Big Brother-style surveillance in our interconnected, technology-obsessed world.  At one point the film recalls the espionage classic The Conversation as Adam tears up his apartment looking for bugs. Unfortunately, Paranoia overdoes the high-tech surveillance, portraying the watchers as all-seeing fiends almost as if they were Bond Villains.

Liam Hemsworth, who looks like a genetic hybrid of Ryan Reynolds and John Krasinski from The Office is functional rather than memorable as the decent guy caught up in something he can’t control.  Gary Oldman, who we immediately know is evil because he wears a bow tie and because he’s British, chomps the scenery in a role that is ridiculous and undeniably beneath such a lauded actor but still entertainingly sleazy.   Still, it’s not clear why he speaks like Bill Sykes from Oliver Twist.  Harrison Ford, whose shaved head makes him look remarkably like Rupert Murdoch, is on cruise control as the avuncular Jock Goddard but he still has an air of quiet menace.

Paranoia is occasionally tense and technologically inventive and those fascinated by communications technology might derive more thrills from this film than most people.  Too often, though, it’s just a slickly-made, clichéd and implausible cookie-cutter conspiracy flick.

Nick’s rating: Two and a half stars.

Classification: M.

Director(s): Robert Luketic.

Release date: 5th Sept 2013

Running time: 106 mins.

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