Starring : Liam Hemsworth, Amber Heard, Gary Oldman, Harrison Ford, Richard Dreyfuss, Julian McMahon, Josh Holloway, Embeth Davidtz and Lucas Till

Director : Robert Luketic

Release Date : 12 Sep 2013

Is having its heart in the right place enough to save an inconsistent, vaguely plotted thriller?

THIS is a thriller that’s a little deficient in the thrills department, involving a heist that’s somewhat challenged in the planning department and capped by a sting operation that’s not nearly as clever as it needs to be.

But one thing the film does have is its heart in the right place, where its main character – a young engineer named Adam Cassidy (Liam Hemsworth) who’s hungry for success – is concerned. We’ll get to that later.

Set in the “world” of smartphone innovation and cutthroat rivalry, Paranoia begins with Adam and his team fudging their big chance to present an innovative idea to their tool of a boss, Nicholas Wyatt (Gary Oldman) of tech giant Wyatt Corp.

Well, it’s mostly Adam who fudges it, losing his cool when Wyatt does that dismissive “thing” that such tools do. Without thinking of the consequences, he blows a big chunk of the company’s development funds partying with his friends like they’ve just been fired – well, actually they have been – and then finds himself facing felony fraud charges.

Using this as leverage, Wyatt gets his team to re-invent Adam as a successful Wyatt Corp superstar that he has no choice but to let go, and manages to get him a job interview at even bigger tech giant Eikon – a competitor that happens to be run by Wyatt’s former mentor and now deadly business rival, Jock Goddard (Harrison Ford).

The objective: spy on Eikon and steal whatever he can about its next big thing, the Occura (which sounds, from Goddard’s pitch, like a combination of a wearable watch/smartphone and our MyKad).

Intercut with all this corporate espionage jiggery-pokery are various scenes detailing Adam’s growing detachment from the things that kept him rooted as a basically nice guy: his ailing, retired father (Richard Dreyfuss), his old friends who he’s left high and dry after being seduced by the trappings of success, and even his ongoing relationship with Eikon marketing director Emma Jennings (Amber Heard) when he’s forced to use her in order to carry out Wyatt’s orders.

The first group of bad guys to come into Adam’s life are so nuance-free and irredeemably evil that you wonder why their delivery doom doctors didn’t just do the world a favour right then and there. Wyatt is a total piece of excrement, his security chief/head enforcer Miles Meechum (Julian McMahon) even more of a homicidal lizard than Victor Von Doom, and his strategist Dr Judith Bolton (Embeth Davidtz) is a manipulative rhymes-with-quidditch driven only by personal profit.

The second layer of evil is a little more alluring, the ostensible misunderstood nice guy who is all father-figurely, sympathetic and mentor-like. Yep, it’s quite plain from the start that Goddard has his own little agenda in play so I don’t figure it’s much of a spoiler to lump him in with the film’s villains in this review.

My main problems with Paranoia were that it is somewhat lacking in the thrills and suspense department, that its villains are mostly obvious and one-dimensional, and that the whole scheme to get Occura and Adam’s grand plan to save the day are kind of simplistic and too convenient. And the situations in which Adam finds himself don’t exactly engender a very convincing kind of Paranoia when we all know they really are watching him and out to get him,

Hmm ... for a thriller, I guess that would make this one pretty deficient in all the important places. Small wonder that it came and went without making much of an impact.

It is, at least, interesting to see how Adam begins to disintegrate on multiple levels as the pressure and jeopardy build up (Wyatt Corp tends to take “severance package” too literally), yet keep his head above water long enough to figure out an exit strategy. And there are a couple of moments that smartphone veterans should find amusing.

Also, as mentioned earlier in this review, Paranoia does have its heart in the right place, in its reinforcement that the real heroes who should inspire us are the mothers, fathers and guardians who sacrifice their dreams so that their kids can some day aspire to fulfil their own; and not the flashy, self-serving types whose allure is empty promises of success and wealth, at the cost of one’s integrity and principles.

For that, I was willing to cut it some slack for its other shortfalls.

Though I still think Emma lets Adam off the hook way too easily. Unless ... she plans to make him pay for the rest of his life. Now that is chilling.

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