For whatever reason, it was decided long ago that every generation would have its “Wall Street,” every prospective movie star his own “The Firm” (or, worse, an “Antitrust”), and as such, we presently find ourselves treated to “Paranoia,” a paint-by-numbers cautionary tale that gives Liam Hemsworth (brother of Chris) his biggest role to date.
He plays Adam Cassidy, a Brooklyn-born bridge-and-tunnel type futilely working his way up the ranks at WyattCorp in Manhattan. After a crash-and-burn pitch meeting with company president Nicolas Wyatt (Gary Oldman) sees him and his team fired, and after a night on the town at the company’s expense sees him caught, Adam is blackmailed by Wyatt into working for the enemy, Jock Goddard (Harrison Ford), at rival tech giant Eikon. Adam has an ailing father (Richard Dreyfuss) to consider, not to mention an FBI agent (Josh Holloway) keen on pointing out that every other lackey who’s been put in a similar position by WyattCorp has wound up dead. What’s a hunkier Hayden Christensen to do?
At his best, fellow Aussie import Robert Luketic directs amiable but ultimately forgettable films (“21,” “Legally Blonde”); at his worst, he makes Katherine Heigl vehicles (“Killers,” “The Ugly Truth”). His first out-and-out thriller, “Paranoia” sees Luketic working primarily in grays and blues to convey the chilly corporate world in which Adam finds himself ensnared. The oddly striking shot slips in there, whether it’s the silently ominous reveal of a completely re-furnished apartment the day after Adam’s torn it asunder or the disjointed reflection of nearing security guards across floor tiles. Less convincing, though, are the slow-motion interludes and glitchy interference meant to sell us on our hero’s titular state of mind, or the laughably red “security lighting” intended to serve as a panicky mid-heist contrast to the film’s otherwise cool demeanor while blocking out five floors in the middle of a skyscraper for all around to see.
The baddies similarly cherish menace over logic, with Ford and Oldman’s first reunion since 1997’s “Air Force One” a moderately hammy highlight while WyattCorp associates Embeth Davidtz and Julian McMahon ooze sinister intentions from the sidelines. Amber Heard gets thankless love-interest duties, just as Lucas Till gets to be the requisite scorned best friend. That leaves Hemsworth, whose leading man roles in “The Last Song” and “Love & Honor” suggested a charisma that alleviate either film’s corny trappings. Sadly, that charm is hardly evident here; Hemsworth is rarely bad, but so thoroughly bland that there’s little reason to have stake in Adam’s fate, as if it were ever in any doubt.
Frankly, no one in this ensemble is done any favors by Jason Hall and Barry Levy’s screenplay, a “Duplicity” for dummies filled to the brim with double-crossing cliches and clunkers like “Power is the juice. Get used to drinking it.” and “Don’t try to revise death!” There’s much sprinting and keyboard-clacking for an audience that might feasibly value the sight of either over the presence of genuine invention or suspense. At one point, Wyatt takes Adam aside and shares a quote from Picasso: “A good artist copies. A great artist steals.” Rest assured that no great artists were involved with the making of this film.
SCORE: 4.5 / 10