If there’s one thing that modern society loves, it’s Apple products. If there’s another, it’s surveillance and espionage. But if you have an iPhone, you can’t pull the battery out, and someone can’t put an obvious bug in it. This is why Paranoia features countless MacBooks and iMacs, but our lead character boasts a nondescript phone ripe for the bugging.
There’s a message there.
Adam Cassidy (Liam Hemsworth, The Expendables 2) is fired from his tech job and spends $16,000 of company money in a final blaze of glory. Charged with either fraud or corporate espionage by his former employer Nicholas Wyatt (Gary Oldman, The Dark Knight Rises), Adam chooses corporate espionage, and goes to work for Jock Goddard (Harrison Ford, Cowboys & Aliens) so that he may steal a phone prototype. Adam becomes enamoured of Goddard employee Emma Jennings (Amber Heard, The Rum Diary), but quickly realises that he is being watched and that his sickly father (Richard Dreyfuss, RED) and his friends are at risk if he doesn’t follow Wyatt’s orders.
Director Robert Luketic’s (Killers) return to the screen brings a couple of fellow Australians with it, from the smallest Hemsworth to Julian McMahon (Bait) as the heavy Meechum, but more than anything we have the film’s biggest character: Oldman’s accent, which sounds like if Bob Hoskins and Christian Bales’ accents had a baby that swore at everyone it saw. It’s one of the most lived-in things about an otherwise sterile movie, which never manages to consistently find and stick to its message; there’s supposed to be something about Adam losing sight of his roots in his pursuit of capital, but this neglects to take into account that he needs money to pay a $40,000 debt incurred by America’s health care system.
You can’t layer a character with problems and then forget that he has them. Hemsworth is good enough in the role, but there’s not enough to him to make it feel like he’s ever compromised his values to the extent that Emma suggests. For much of the film, Hemsworth is literally a blank canvas: Luketic takes every excuse to show him shirtless, be it in the shower, the pool or the bedroom. It’s a treatment that neither Heard nor any of the considerably older male cast members are subjected to and, while it may be gratuitous, it’s definitely noteworthy.
But just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you, and there’s never any ambiguity about the danger that Adam finds himself in, it just takes a long time to get there – and when it does, it’s a relatively effective paint by numbers affair.
Powered by a fair cast (although Ford hasn’t been interested in anything for years), Paranoia is an unambitious but bouncy enough thriller, light on the thrills but heavy on the shirtlessness. It’s the sort of movie my grandfather would have loved, and it’s not half bad at that.
Paranoia was released in Australia on September 5th.
Director: Robert Luketic
Starring: Liam Hemsworth, Amber Heard and Harrison Ford.