Robert Luketic’s supposedly down-and-dirty corporate espionage thriller Paranoia undercuts itself at nearly every turn by shunning any potential relevancy, less a knockoff of The Conversation than perhaps D.J. Caruso’s Eagle Eye. Top to bottom, Luketic and his screenwriters are less interested in the overlap between smartphones and snooping than in the supreme idiocy of their super-Aryan leading man, Adam Cassidy (Liam Hemsworth), who muses in the film’s opening voiceover, “The people who say, ’Be careful what you wish for,’ I never got them.”
Adam is callously dismissed by his boss, billionaire tech genius Nick Wyatt (Gary Oldman), after failing to deliver the goods at a high-pressure smartphone pitch session. Naturally he takes his team of just-fired geeks out to a posh nightclub on the company card, racking up $16,000 in tequila shots—which is, coincidentally, the same amount he needs in order to pay his dying father’s (Richard Dreyfuss) hospital bills. The next day, Wyatt offers him an ultimatum: go to jail for fraud, or become a mole at Eikon, the rival company led by Adam’s mentor turned archnemesis, Jock Goddard (Harrison Ford). Adam’s romance with one of Goddard’s superstar developers, Emma Jennings (Amber Heard, yanking most of her scenes out from under the slow-blinking, perpetually dumbstruck Hemsworth), soon finds him unclear whether he’s acting out of love, addiction to the good life, or a desperate self-preservation.
This confused identity theme is often spotlighted whenever somebody drops a pallid Facebook-era bromide like “People are so distracted these days, they don’t know who they are anymore!” Despite an atmosphere of virulent snooping and backstabbing, which Paranoia abandons whenever it’s inconvenient to on-location shooting, Wyatt and his cronies insist on meeting the ever-tortured Adam in public to hash things out—extra risky given the film’s hilariously tiny rendering of Manhattan.
In an era of especially isolated and socially awkward genius billionaires, Oldman and Ford both bring more personality and gravity to their characters than the script calls for. Over-reliant on technical jargon that bends to meet the script no matter how ludicrous, Paranoia is a film with no common sense, wherein a guy straddling two of the world’s most powerful computer companies is shocked to realize his all-expenses-paid penthouse apartment is bugged with microphones and cameras, and the head of security at a supposedly Google-sized firm bellows, “Get our IT guy on the line!” after the system is hacked.