“Paranoia” opens Friday at Point, Eastgate, and Star Cinema. PG-13, 1:42, one and a half stars out of four.
“Good artists copy,” someone in “Paranoia” quotes Pablo Picasso as saying. “Great artists steal.” By that measure, “Paranoia” must be a great movie.
Robert Luketic’s limp adaptation of the bestselling novel by Joseph Finder cribs shamelessly from every corporate-techno-thriller of the last 20 years, from “The Firm” to “Duplicity.” It’s like one of those cheap knockoff phones you might buy on a streetcorner in Manhattan — the “IPhoen 5” of thrillers.
Liam Hemsworth is deeply miscast as Adam Cassidy, a hotshot tech wizard who just happens to look like an Olympic diver. (Seriously, who knew tech nerds took their shirts off this much?) A low-level striver in the Wyatt Corporation, run by the arrogant Nicolas Wyatt (Gary Oldman), Adam dreams of making it to a corner office. Instead, Wyatt fires him after a lousy pitch meeting, and then threatens to arrest him when Adam uses the company credit card to finance a night on the town for him and his friends.
But Wyatt has another offer. He wants Adam to become a corporate spy at Eikon, another tech company run by his rival and mentor, Jock Goddard (Harrison Ford). If Adam can get details on the revolutionary new smartphone that Eikon has in the works, Wyatt will forgive the debt and throw a million dollars in to boot.
So Andrew goes to work for Goddard, who seems much more avuncular and paternal than the devious Wyatt, and the central tension of the film is supposed to be watching Adam decide which billionaire he’ll screw over for the sake of the other. This kind of movie needs zippy, smart pacing and style to get past the plot inconsistencies, but “Paranoia” moves at a leaden march, using ominous music and needless visual trickery (jump cuts and super slo-mo) to try and convince the audience that what they’re watching is cool and suspenseful. Luketic used the same tricks in his last film “21” (which has essentially the same plot, of a handsome young hero trying to outsmart two character actors), it had a more appealing lead actor in Jim Sturgess, and a more interesting environment in Vegas.
The only time “Paranoia” comes to life is when Ford or Oldman are on screen, but each gets only about 20 minutes of screentime, despite their prominence on the movie poster. Oldman, slipping into his native British accent for the first time in a while, plays Wyatt as a Cockney tough who somehow made it to the penthouse suite. And Ford, his head shaved, seems to revel in playing a guy who might be nastier than the father figure he appears to be.
When those two clash, finally, “Paranoia” is kinda fun. But they’re largely backgrounded in favor of Hemsworth, who is neither convincing as a tech guy nor, more crucially, as an ambitious guy from the sticks who will do anything to get ahead. Instead, he’s a bland hunk who ambles from scene to scene, furrowing his brow or flashing a confident grin when the scene calls for it,, without any sense that there’s anything going on behind that handsome mug. You kind of want Oldman or Ford to crush him like a bug in the first act and get together themselves for a little “Air Force One” reunion (“Get off my skyscraper!”)