There’s a scene fairly early on in Paranoia where Harrison Ford’s character has a party at his home in the Hamptons. It’s a lavish affair held in the backyard of a house that costs more than most of us are likely to make in our lifetime, with waiters bringing around wine in crystal flutes on silver trays, you get the idea. It looks like Diddy’s Off White Party, with everyone dressed quite fashionably in shades of cream and pearl. Everyone except Ford who’s dressed in a grey t-shirt that looks like the kind Michael Jordan has taken to hawking on TV and a pair of dad jeans. Probably Wranglers. It looks like his entire wardrobe for this rather lavish party, could easily be had for around $20 at any Wal-Mart in America. He’s not just under dressed, it’s like he simply decided not to try and he’s perfectly, blissfully happy with that decision.
Which is interesting, because it seems like the people who made Paranoia made the exact same decision and are just as giddy about it.
Adam Cassidy (Liam Hemsworth) wants more. A glorified intern for Wyatt Mobile, Adam and his fellow low-level grunt workers are ready to pitch Mr. Wyatt (Gary Oldman) on the project they’ve been working on for months. But when it doesn’t go well and they all get canned, Adam remembers the corporate credit card they were given for research expenses and takes the crew out for a long night of VIP drinking at an exclusive nightclub. He wakes the next morning in a strange girl’s bed and Wyatt calls him in to threaten him with jail for credit card fraud. But Wyatt offers him a way out and a big payday on top of that, if he’ll spy on their rival eIkon and its founder, Jock Goddard (Ford). Adam doesn’t like the prospect of jail and could use the money since he lives with his father (Richard Dreyfuss) whose medical bills are starting to pile up, so he takes the job.
Perhaps mistake number one was laboring under the delusion that director Robert Luketic was capable of making a good film. This is the man who has brought us such mediocre tripe as Monster-in-Law, 21, Killers and The Ugly Truth. His best film by a country mile is Legally Blonde, and much as his parents may have hoped, Paranoia isn’t going to challenge that. There’s something incredibly bland about his work in general and here in particular. It’s a relatively competent film from a paint-by-numbers perspective. Luketic can set up cameras and block things and generally get his actors to deliver their lines, but it’s completely devoid of any type of creative spark.
Paranoia is a film chock full of utterly dumb scenes and choices and reactions. While it’s mostly coherent it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Why Oldman is doing an over-the-top Cockney accent is a complete mystery. It’s never mentioned or addressed, even casually in the film. Not once. It’s one of those random character things that’s supposed to add dimension and definition, but it manages neither and ends up as a simple fact that elucidates nothing about Oldman’s character.
Then the are the scenes that boggle the mind. At one point Adam is shown a video feed from his father’s house to remind him that they can hurt the people he cares about. In a later scene Adam is surprised to learn that they have cameras planted in his Manhattan apartment. The apartment that they provided for him, they being the people with a camera in his father’s house. Truly shocking. Then there’s a scene where Adam narrowly escapes death and blasts off in his sports car. He is presumably still being chased, but the very next scene is him going to see his former friend to apologize, forgetting entirely that he almost just got killed and that the people who want to kill him are probably still right behind him. There’s also the love interest, Emma, who’s cold to Adam after their one night stand but then turns on a dime and warmly opens up to his advances. This is done pretty much because the script said to do it and eschews any notions of actual character development or realistic motivation. Things happen because that’s what’s supposed to happen, not as a result of any sort of definable cause and effect.
This is the type of film where you wonder why the big name actors are in it. Maybe Oldman lost a bet. Maybe Dreyfuss really didn’t have anything better to do with his time. Maybe Ford just wanted an excuse to shave his head.
You’d almost expect Ford to just phone this one in, looking aloof and bored throughout, and you could easily forgive him for that. But while he doesn’t quite throw himself into it like he did in 42, Ford is actually showing up for this film. He’s engaged and bright-eyed despite what he has to know is a mediocre film being created around him. Points to him for sticking with it and giving a decent performance to a film that didn’t deserve it.
Paranoia is a lot like eating oatmeal. It’s bland and tasteless, and rarely anyone’s first choice. Ford gives it the old college try and it’s decently paced but it’s not enough to elevate it from the muck and mire of a boring script made by an unimaginative director.
The Upside: Ford is pretty good; it keeps moving
The Downside: It’s dumb and tepid and instantly forgettable
On the Side: According to IMDb, Kevin Spacey turned down the role that eventually went to Gary Oldman, presumably because he was the only one that actually read the script. Though the thought of Spacey doing a Cockney accent is almost enough to wish he’d taken the part.