The new corporate thriller from director Robert Luketic is called "Paranoia" because throughout a major portion of the movie, there's a nagging fear nothing is ever going to happen. Even when something does occur, there's a trepidation everything is going to play out as expected — and it does.
Screenwriters Jason Dean Hall and Barry Levy have composed a story that depends more on coincidence, chance and leaps of faith than smartly building a web of mystery and intrigue that should make each move look like playing chess in the dark. When you can see every twist coming, the turns aren't exciting.
It starts with high-tech whiz Adam Cassidy — played by the less Thor-like brother of Chris Hemsworth, Liam Hemsworth — who finds himself in a financial bind when he's fired from his entry-level job at Wyatt Corporation. The head of the company, Nicholas Wyatt (Gary Oldman), gives Cassidy an out: All he has to do is infiltrate the main competition that's being run by Wyatt's former partner, Jock Goddard (Harrison Ford), and steal the company's latest secrets.
Through a series of events that can only happen in a movie script, Cassidy goes from unemployed to working in a corner office at Goddard's company. All of this takes a painfully long time, slowed even more by an emotionless romance between Cassidy and one of Goddard's top executives (Amber Heard).
It's a blunder to call a movie "Paranoia" and never build a second of suspense. There are plenty of references to how we are always being watched and that there's always someone listening. That's a reality and not the fodder for a movie that needed to build tension to distract from the very obvious ending.
If you can stop looking at Ford's nearly shaved head, he and Oldman are great as the battling CEOs, but casting Hemsworth to play a driven 20-something willing to do anything to go up the corporate ladder is like asking a puppy to guard a junkyard. He looks good but there's no hunger in his eyes.
This is the kind of role that Charlie Sheen would have made work a few decades ago or Ryan Gosling in recent years.
The biggest misfire is casting Oscar-winner Richard Dreyfuss as Cassidy's ailing father and giving him little more to do than be set dressing.
None of this is as big a problem as the failure by Luketic to create any sense of suspense.
Without that, the only way "Paranoia" will have you looking over your shoulder is to find the nearest movie theater exit.
"Paranoia," rated PG-13 for violence, language. Stars Liam Hemsworth, Harrison Ford, Gary Oldman, Amber Heard. Directed by Robert Luketic. Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes. Grade: D+
TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, firstname.lastname@example.org or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.