Look at this cast! With Liam Hemsworth, Gary Oldman, Harrison Ford, and Richard Dreyfuss, 'Paranoia' couldn't be all that bad, could it? Oh yes it could. There's nothing particularly wrong with the performances by any of the above actors (although Dreyfuss does seem to be phoning it in a bit), but they've been given a not-ready-for-primetime screenplay and a not-worthy-of-this-talent director (21's Robert Luketic) and the result is a flashy, but silly and predictable, mess of a movie.
I've not read the novel upon which this movie is based, but I can't imagine it is as predictable or as familiar as 'Paranoia' the movie. It's like the screenwriters had a concept for a story and then put it through their computer's 'Screenplay 101' software. We've seen similar stories plenty of times before and told much, much better. The only new 'slant' here is that the movie takes us into the world of smartphone programming, which is about as exciting as it sounds. In other words, not very exciting at all.
Liam Hemsworth stars as Adam Cassidy, a wiz kid genius who (along with a group of equally techy friends) is working for Nicholas Wyatt (Gary Oldman), the CEO of a major smartphone development company. Wyatt is having different department groups come in and pitch him ideas, and when Adam and his friends come in, Wyatt all but ignores them, leading Adam to make a snide comment about Wyatt's disinterest. This, of course, gets Adam and all his friends fired. Adam tries to get a bit of revenge by using the company's credit card that evening at a nightclub, but that just has him back in Wyatt's office the next morning – threatening to press charges against Adam unless he agrees to go undercover and spy for him as an employee of Wyatt's main competition – a company run by Jock Goddard (Harrison Ford).
Adam has a sick father (Richard Dreyfuss) at home and both his greed and his father's need for continued health care (not to mention his fear of going to jail) make Wyatt's offer easy to accept. He's groomed at how to deal with Goddard by one of Wyatt's closest assistants (played by Embeth Davidz). Having an idea of what will appeal to Goddard, it's not long before Adam finds himself under Jock's good graces at the company. He also finds himself teamed with Emma Jennings (Amber Heard) there, a woman he had a one-night stand with the night of his credit card nightclub spree. Soon, however, Adam's situation begins to unravel, as the FBI (along with a lead agent played by Lost's Josh Holloway) begins to investigate the two companies and Adam finds out that he's involved with two very dangerous men.
'Paranoia's biggest problem is that it never strives to be anything more than an average thriller and, as a result, sinks well below that in quality. Much, if not most, of the dialogue is expository in nature, and doesn't seem natural at all. Adam's supposed to be a smart kid, but makes stupid decisions that just get him deeper and deeper over his head. Wyatt and Goddard are both CEOs of major corporations, yet they're so transparent about their criminal activities, it's a wonder the FBI didn't bust them both 10 years before this movie started. Both Adam's father and Adam's girlfriend (for lack of a better word, since there's zero chemistry between them) are simply token pieces needed to move the plot along.
There are, believe it or not, two good scenes in 'Paranoia' and not surprisingly they're the only two scenes in the movie where Oldman and Ford share the screen. I couldn't help but think what a better film this might have been had the Adam character been eighty-sixed completely and the plotline focused solely on the characters of Wyatt and Goddard. Alas, that would have probably been a much smaller and less marketable movie, but it would have provided for a much better story. Thankfully, despite all the flaws here, neither Oldman or Ford embarrass themselves with their performances. Both actors are solid in their roles, and 2013 has proved to be a comeback year for Harrison Ford, who also shined (much, much more than he does here) in both 42 and Ender's Game.
As poor as 'Paranoia' is, most of its problems lie with its screenplay and direction and not with the actors on screen. This may not be the movie that turns Liam Hemsworth into a leading man, but he's a good enough actor and should make that jump with the right material in the near future (he was much better as the lead, by the way, in the lesser-seen Empire State, which I reviewed earlier this year). 'Paranoia' will be a forgotten footnote in all of these actors' careers, and is not really worthy of a viewing, let alone anyone's money.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Paranoia' arrives on Blu-ray in a combo pack that includes a DVD that also holds a digital copy of the movie. A slipcover matching the box cover is included. The Blu-ray is an eco-friendly keepcase with the DVD on the inside left and the Blu-ray on the inside right. An insert contains a code to active the digital copy on the DVD. The Blu-ray itself is front-loaded with trailers for 'Out of the Furnace', The Family, Don Jon, and The Wolverine. The DVD is also front-loaded with those trailers, with the exception of 'The Wolverine', which is moved to the 'Sneak Peaks' section of that disc and replaced with an ad for Blu-ray Discs that comes after the 'Out of the Furnace' trailer. The 'Sneak Peaks' section of the DVD also contains the additional trailers that are also on the Blu-ray's 'Sneak Peaks' extra; however, no other bonus materials are contained on the DVD version. The Blu-ray menu consists of a video montage of footage from the movie, with menu selections along the bottom of the screen.
Other than the digital copy, the DVD in this set mirrors the stand-alone DVD in that it is primarily a bare-bones disc (other than the trailers mentioned above).
Although the movie is less than stellar, I have no complaints about the A/V quality – starting with the video, which is pretty much top-notch in appearance. 'Paranoia' was shot digitally on Arri Alexa cameras, and the Blu-ray transfer is stunningly sharp in most scenes – particularly those that take place outdoors. Almost every shot is full of rich colors, fine detail, and the kind of depth and definition one hopes for in an HD picture. Nighttime scenes contain blacks that are inky deep and shadow delineation is superb throughout. There is also no noticeable issues with noise, aliasing, edge enhancement or other frequently-seen problems.
'Paranoia' only avoids getting a perfect score in the video department because many of its interior scenes and close-ups tend to come off as slightly softer and less defined than the outdoor (and wider indoor) shots. This probably has more to do with the cameras being used than the transfer, but it's enough that I can't quite give 'Paranoia' a reference-quality rating, although the movie comes pretty close. That said, very few viewers are going to be complaining about the picture quality, as it's quite good.
While the video just came a hair short of a perfect score for me, the audio is even more impressive and one of the most enjoyable sound experiences I've had watching a Blu-ray movie this year (oh, if only we had a movie deserving of this audio). The English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless track is a joy to listen to, with clear and distinct sounds coming from all speakers, noticeable directionality throughout, and some great use of the low ranges (wait until you hear the way the subwolfer will rumble your room as a helicopter passes overhead during an early scene in the movie).
In addition to all of the above, dialogue is crisp and never drowned out by either the action nor the very active musical soundtrack contained in the movie. No evidence of glitches, dropouts, or other issues, either. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is the only audio option available, and subtitles have been provided in both English SDH and Spanish.
With a cast like this, how can 'Paranoia' be considered anything but a huge disappointment? At some point in the creative process there must have been an interesting concept, but 'Paranoia' has all the indications of an under-cooked screenplay with its paint-by-numbers storyline and less-than-original ideas. Both the actors and the audience deserved much better. Skip it.