“I wanted more,” says ambitious young Adam Cassidy at the start of the thriller “Paranoia.”
Adam is explaining via voiceover how he got caught in a web of deceit, but watching this movie, I know how he feels. Based on the novel by Joseph Finder, “Paranoia” has a promising foundation; betrayal, danger and corporate espionage are solid building blocks of suspense. But the movie turns out to be more exasperating than exciting.
There are warning signs. Director Robert Luketic is responsible for some frightening missteps – “Killers” with Ashton Kutcher and Katherine Heigl; “The Ugly Truth” with Gerard Butler and Heigl; “Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!” with Topher Grace and somebody who wasn’t Katherine Heigl. “Paranoia” isn’t quite so misguided, but there’s too much here that doesn’t ring true or make any sense beyond script convenience.
Liam Hemsworth (“The Hunger Games”), who is extremely pretty but whom nobody will confuse with Ryan Gosling come Oscar night, plays Adam, who lives with his ailing father (Richard Dreyfuss) in Brooklyn. Adam toils in obscurity at a tech company with his friends and can’t get in the high-end clubs, not even looking the way he does (though perhaps he might have a better shot if he ditched his hoodie).
But Adam, as he has mentioned, wants more. He has plans to wow his CEO Nicolas Wyatt (Gary Oldman) by making “the pitch of his life” about cellphone technology. Things go badly – ostensibly not because he’s still wearing the hoodie at the most important meeting of his life, but you have to wonder – and everybody gets fired. In a moment of pure idiocy, Adam encourages his friends to drink all night on Wyatt’s dime and finds himself summoned to the office the next day.
But his crafty boss, borrowing Michael Caine’s accent for the duration of the film, doesn’t want his money back. He blackmails Adam into going undercover at a rival tech firm run by his old mentor (Harrison Ford) to steal a prototype for a revolutionary new product.
The plot takes a few nice twists, but would anyone genuinely believe doe-eyed Adam could pull off this heist in a security-obsessed building? Even though he’s bedding the company’s marketing director (Amber Heard) and sneaking access to her computer files? Fortunately, she’s careless with her passwords, which is exactly the sort of dumb, cheap shortcut “Paranoia’s” script relies on one too many times.
Luketic wants to disturb the audience by turning the very technology Adam loves against him, as Wyatt’s cameras track him everywhere, and time and Wyatt’s patience begin to run out. But honestly, the most disturbing thing in the film is the distractingly waxed eyebrows of Julian McMahon, who plays a henchman. In the end, “Paranoia” can’t make you nervous enough to care.