I don’t know of anyone who madly rushed to the theaters for the opening day of Paranoia. But, then again, it’s not exactly the kind of movie that was anticipated to set the world on fire. Counter-intuitively- and this is based on my admittedly vague understanding of the film industry- films that are expected to perform poorly are often marketed like crazy before release in an attempt to draw in the early crowds before word of mouth spreads around the fact that it’s an overwhelmingly pretentious mess. It’s strange, then, that Paranoia received almost no press prior to it’s release, almost as though the studios thought that this uninspired slog could hold up on it’s own merits.
Directed by Robert Luketic (21, Legally Blonde, and others) and written by Bary L. Levy and Jason Dean Hall, Paranoia is essentially an amalgamation of a plethora of other movies and if nothing else, knows how to rip-off like a champ- but more on that in a moment. As with the vast majority of films this year, I blame the writing much more than the direction itself. In a movie like this, there’s virtually no limit to the laundry list of shortcomings that can’t be first blamed on the messy plot. If the story is any indication, Paranoia strikes me as a film that thinks it’s much more clever than it actually is- obnoxiously so, in fact- to the point that its almost two hour run time seemed tortuous.
Starring Thor’s little brother (not Loki) and pensioner’s portrayal of Indiana Jones, Paranoia is perhaps the most poorly cast film I’ve seen all year. Here’s a fun (read: deadly) drinking game: take a shot every time Liam Hemsworth waddles around, arms akimbo, because his magnificent muscles are just so huge. Ford, I’ve concluded, perhaps not dissimilar to Jeff Bridges in some respects, is very much an idiot savant in that he’s a perfectly decent actor, but has recently chosen to take part in some seriously lackluster movies including this year’s 42, Paranoia, and (at time of writing) the upcoming Ender’s Game. In addition, Paranoia unapologetically squanders the talent of Richard Dreyfuss, an incredible actor in his own right, in a pointless cameo appearance as the protagonist’s father.
During one of the film’s early moments, a character says something to the effect of “There’s nothing original anymore. Everyone steals from everyone else,” and by God, does Paranoia take that message to heart. The narrative is strongly reminiscent of Luketic’s own 21 as well as hints of Limitless, in what I can only assume is a growing trend of 21st century rags-to-riches stories wherein a young person achieves wealth through dubious means like they were a character written by a morally bankrupt Horatio Alger. That being the case, Paranoia is a classic example of a film that opts for style over substance in what is likewise a growing, not to mention incredibly troubling trend in Hollywood.
The film attempts to throw in a big twist about two thirds into the movie, but if you’re like me, you’ll have mentally checked out long before that point. Between Hemsworth’s severely lacking performance, an uninspired story that could have been ripped from the delusions of an Occupy Wall Street protestor, and some phenomenally bland and uninteresting characters, I couldn’t walk out of that theater fast enough once the credits rolled.
For all of it’s posturing and throwing in popular actors purely for name recognition, Paranoia is a bloated, boring journey into tedium and banality. Once you’ve gotten past the rather glitzy and sleek aesthetic of executive offices and tailored suits, as well as Liam Hemsworth’s rippling muscles, there’s absolutely nothing here to inspire or engage beyond the superficial entertainment of watching some lights flickering on a wall.
Rating: 1.5 out of 5