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Paranoia Review: A Zero Thrills Techno-Thriller
Paranoia revolves around two rival tech giants, Nicholas Wyatt (Gary Oldman) and Jock Goddard (Harrison Ford) who used to work together, but had a falling out. Working together, Jock and Wyatt were an unstoppable team. The only thing that would please either Jock or Wyatt more than their own company’s success is the failure of the other. Adam Cassidy (Liam Hemsworth) works for Wyatt, but a disastrous presentation gets him and his whole team fired. They go and use their corporate card on a lavish party at a high-end club, which gets Adam pulled in front of Wyatt. Instead of having him arrested for credit card fraud, Wyatt asks Adam to spy on Jock for him. Seems that Jock has a new product that Wyatt has no competition for, he wants to know what it is. Adam doesn’t want to commit corporate espionage, but Wyatt’s leverage and the mounting medical bills of his dad at home force his hand. During the party Adam met a girl named Emma (Amber Heard), who he ended up going home with. He wanted more out of it than a one night stand, but she sends him packing.
The next day Adam starts his training montage by getting new clothes, a cool expensive watch and a chance at an interview with someone from Jock’s company. He makes a good impression on the man he meets, but he also discovers that Emma works for Jock as well. They act like they don’t know each other, but the attraction both of them feel is pretty clear and very cliché. At least she doesn’t end up being Jock’s daughter or something like that, so it’s bad but, it could’ve been worse. Emma notwithstanding, Adam makes a good enough impression that he lands an executive position at Jock’s company with no issue.
The first day on the job, Adam takes a dead in the water product and comes up with a brilliant new use for it that the brains at Jock’s company hadn’t thought of. That gets him an invite into Jock’s estate, helps him learn more about Jock, and gives the audience a reason to empathize with each of them. The party also gives Adam and Emma a chance to renew their romance and take it further.
If you’re thinking “Where’s all the high-tech spying stuff?” well you’re not alone. There’s precious little of that in the entire movie. And what corporate espionage exists isn’t directed at the people you’d think it would be. There are tons of logic gaps and holes that you can see coming a mile away, and what Adam accomplishes in the realm of spying is mostly by sheer dumb luck. And there’s one thing that bothered me a ton: Wyatt has an employee who’s essentially a hit man. He’s in charge of keeping Adam in line and making sure he gets the job done, except since he’s constantly calling Adam and threatening him, Adam can’t get anywhere with his spy mission! It’s a stupid idea and it doesn’t add anything except viewer irritation.
The conspiracy here is that Paranoia lures you in with the expectation that you’ll be seeing a thriller and then it gives you a romance. That would maybe be okay if I felt like Adam and Emma had any actual chemistry between them, but they don’t. Their scenes together are devoid of heat or any sexual tension whatsoever. I like Amber Heard, but I want to see her kicking ass like she did in Drive Angry, not playing the doe-eyed object of some dude’s affection.
And lest you think that Harrison Ford and Gary Oldman could save this movie from being a total bore, well you’d be wrong. They play their parts well enough, but their roles are thin and mostly uninteresting. There’s no one in Paranoia I felt like rooting for, not even Adam.
I’d recommend avoiding Paranoia unless you’re looking for a lot of non-hot romance and lackluster espionage.