With a name like Paranoia, we obviously have a film attempting to emulate the thrillers of Hitchcock and Polanski. Unfortunately for the movie — and the paltry handful of people who paid to see it this weekend — the only time you’re going to hear director Robert Luketic’s name mentioned in the company of those filmmakers is in reference to how lousy he is in comparison. And if you need further proof — beyond Legally Blonde (2001) and the slew of garbage romcoms he’s made since — then take a gander at Paranoia, a half-baked, downright dull attempt at a corporate thriller.
Let’s start with the basic concept: Our hunky hero Adam (Liam Hemsworth, The Expendables 2) gets caught in a web of corporate intrigue and espionage in the exciting world of rival cell phone companies. As nefarious as our evil corporate magnates and bitter enemies may be — played by Gary Oldman and a Harrison Ford in dire need of more fiber-boosting leafy greens in his diet — they’re still hawking cell phones. The stakes just don’t feel that high, even as Adam gets blackmailed into a violent, deadly world of corporate espionage. This might conceivably be fine if Luketic had any idea how to make this conceit entertaining. With the same material, Polanski would’ve ratcheted up the atmosphere and dread; Brian De Palma would’ve made overheated trash. Luketic, on the other hand, directs everything here with a straight face and some bargain-basement attempts at stylization — with little understanding of how to take such flaccid material and pump it up a little.
The flick is pretty boneheaded from the top down, starting with the casting. Hemsworth is fine, though I have difficulty believing this poor man’s Channing Tatum is somehow a computer genius. This is second only to the idea that schlubby Richard Dreyfuss somehow spawned this giant mound of muscly beefcake. Luketic isn’t much of a storyteller, so attempting a taut thriller probably isn’t the best move, as twists are thrown in despite not making much sense. Even the film’s titular paranoia is mostly shoehorned into the plot halfway, a device that serves no purpose besides padding the runtime. It certainly doesn’t up the suspense like it wants to. The film is a laundry list of floundering disappointments, though perhaps the biggest one is that, as a semi-eccentric billionaire, this would’ve been the perfect opportunity for Harrison Ford’s tiny little earring to make its film debut. But alas, no luck. Rated PG-13 for some sexuality, violence and language.
Playing at Carmike 10, Carolina Cinemas, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande