Back in December of 1989, a movie arrived in theaters with so much potential it was almost unfair. Starring Sean Connery, Dustin Hoffman, and Matthew Broderick, Family Business should have been a slam dunk. And it was even directed by none other than Sidney Lumet. How could this thing fail, right?
Turns out, it was bad. Laughably bad. And it’s still counted among the most egregious wastes of talent in movie history.
Now we get Paranoia with Harrison Ford, Gary Oldman, and Richard Dreyfus (to say nothing of Embeth Davidtz, Julian McMahaon, and Josh Holloway), and once again we’re reminded that having an A-list cast means nothing if the material doesn’t equal the star power.
Paranoia tries to be a mash-up of Wall Street and The Firm, but it fails across the board. The cast sleepwalks its way through, it’s about as suspenseful and intriguing as a picnic on a lovely summer day, and somewhere along the way it inexplicably switches from a tale of corporate espionage into a love story.
Liam Hemsworth (The Hunger Games) stars as Adam Cassidy, a hot-shot whiz-kid who works for tech giant Nicolas Wyatt (Oldman)– until the young man’s product pitch gets met with a yawn from his boss. Freshly fired, Adam decides that racking up a five-figure bar tab on the company credit card is a good idea. The next morning, though, Wyatt calls Adam back in with a proposal– he can either go to work for Wyatt’s rival (and former mentor) Jock Goddard (Ford) and steal that company’s hot new high-tech gadet, or go to jail.
Adam chooses the non-jail option and becomes the Bud Fox of his generation– swanky new apartment, thousand-dollar suits, and immediate access to the top floor at Goddard’s company.
Did I mention that, of all the people on the island of Manhattan that Adam could hook up with on the night of his firing, he happens to trip on a woman who turns out to be none other than Goddard’s marketing chief Emma (Amber Heard)?
I know. Crazy, right?
In the grand scheme of things that actually turns out to be one of the more believable story points we’re dealing with here. Paranoia is so full of ridiculous plot holes and mind-melting coincidences that it quickly loses all credibility. You’ll actually spend the better part of the movie (not that there is a better part) shaking your head, rolling your eyes, or both.
Director Robert Luketic, who’s graced the world with not one but two Katherine Heigl gems (Killers, The Ugly Truth) has concocted such a haphazard mess in Paranoia that it would be instantly forgettable, were it not for the bad taste it leaves in your mouth.
Despite the threats Adam receives during the course of the film (“You’re only done when we say you’re done!”), there’s never any tension or danger to speak of. When the most fraught-filled scene we get is Adam being shown that the bad guys have a surveillance camera in his dad’s house, well, it’s safe to say your fingernails will remain intact.
Too bad your wallet didn’t.