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PARANOIA

SYNOPSIS:
The two most powerful tech billionaires in the world, Jock Goddard (Harrison Ford) and Nicholas Wyatt (Gary Oldman) are now bitter rivals with a complicated past who will stop at nothing to destroy each other. Ambitious young Adam Cassidy (Liam Hemsworth), seduced by the idea of wealth and power becomes trapped in the middle of the twists and turns of their life-and-death game of corporate espionage. By the time he realises his life is in danger, he is in far too deep and knows far too much for them to let him walk away.

Review by Louise Keller:
The individual elements have far more appeal than the sum of its parts in Paranoia, a by-the-numbers thriller in which corporate greed is coupled with a rags-to-riches story and in which wealth, ego, lifestyle, love and the ultimate dream are the elements dangled within reach. To begin with, there is Harrison Ford, who is pitted against Gary Oldman as they play two warring billionaire rivals for whom the mark of success is not solely counted in greenback. Then there is Liam Hemsworth, the youngest of the handsome Australian Hemsworth brothers whose striking eyes and physical prowess has granted him an entrée to the Leading Man's Club. The object of his desire is Amber Heard, Johnny Depp's 2011 The Rum Diary seductress Chenault (and subsequently Depp's real life squeeze) while the uptown Manhattan setting and lifestyle epitomises the ultimate in corporate status.

Adapted from a best-selling novel by Joseph Finder, there is nothing unexpected about the tale in which Hemsworth's bright young thing Adam Cassidy wants to change his life and is prepared to do anything to achieve his goals. The scene in which Adam talks about the death of his mother with Ford's mogul Jock Goddard as a means to show empathy with Goddard, who has lost his son, alerts us to the fact that Adam will sell his soul for a chance to climb the corporate ladder. Moral compass is lacking as he dismisses his father (Richard Dreyfuss) as a failure and thinks nothing of using his girlfriend Emma (Heard) as a means to an end. Tension is effectively built in scenes such as the one in which Adam downloads confidential information from Emma's laptop, while she is in the shower. (No chance of high hot-water bills here; she takes a quick shower.) Watch out for Embeth Davidtz as Judith Bolton, psychology whiz and chief advisor to Oldman's Nicholas Wyatt.

Aussie director Robert Luketic, who brought such comic flair to Legally Blonde and Win a Date with Tad Hamilton has made a proficient thriller but there is little individuality: it feels as though we have seen this all before. The film is slick and the ambience at the Hamptons, Adam's deluxe apartment and the upmarket Gentlemen's Club are suitably in keeping with the lifestyle represented. But everything seems routine, including Netherlands' composer Junkie XL, whose soundtrack is not only predictable but rather boring.

The face off between Ford and Oldman is rather disappointing although it is good to see both stalwarts on screen. Both have been effectively 'styled' to represent the ugliness of corporate greed. Ford has a No 1 cut and unflattering glasses, while Oldman's lower-class Cockney-style accent is perhaps the film's best idea. Acting honours go to Hemsworth, who perfectly embodies the protagonist with the dream to have it all - before he realises it is not that easy. There's little chemistry between Hemsworth and Heard but like everything else, it is staged rather than felt. The plot is too far-fetched and the leap of faith that we are asked to take is too much - especially as the rewards are slight. The best scene is the one in which Adam realises that Big Brother is watching. Otherwise, there is not enough of the promised paranoia of the film's title or enough that is at stake for any of the characters.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
"They took my book and took it up to 11," quips smiling author Joseph Finder on US TV show Morning Joe, obviously happy with the casting of Aussie Liam Hemsworth (sitting beside him in the studio) as Adam, the young man in the Faustian centre of the plot. So Finder, who wrote the book over four years ago) is pleased with the result, and so are we. Aussie director Robert Luketic's clever fingerprints are all over the film, with its dictating pace, well maintained tension - but above all, his flair for casting.

Signing Harrison Ford as Goddard and Gary Oldman as Wyatt, the billionaires with bad blood between them sets the bar pretty high. Ford, with greying stubble on his head, is looking old these days, but he can still act; in fact the age-worn face is even more expressive. Oldman (either on his own suggestion or Luketic's) sidesteps an American accent in favour of his native working class English (a bit reminiscent of Michael Caine, actually), which gives him a chance to inject much more venom when required. Speaking of age, Richard Drefuss uses his own age as experience in this low key but important role as Adam's retired father - and they have a couple of strong and moving scenes.

Hemsworth has had enough US film experience to bring his A class accent to the role, but more than that, he slips into the character with ease. Amber Heard is terrific as Emma, a frosty corporate chick who gradually lets Adam into her heart - to her regret at one point, and Embeth Davidtz is a knockout as Judith Bolton, Wyatt's confidante and adviser with a psychology degree behind her.

Julian McMahon is his well practiced baddie, Meechum the muscle for Wyatt and Lucas Till is notable as Adam's younger brother Aaron.

If I have a quibble, it's the lack of clarity about some of the technological wizardry at the heart of the plot - but that's not really what the film is about, anyway. It's about not just knowing what's right and what's wrong, but understanding why knowing that is so important. There is a great line Adam quotes: One way to remember who you are is to remember who your heroes are. It sounds familiar perhaps because it's a Steve Jobs line. So is this line (but borrowed from Picasso, evidently) from Goddard: "Good artists copy, great artists steal."



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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 1

PARANOIA (M)
(US, 2013)

CAST: Harrison Ford, Gary Oldman, Liam Hemsworth, Amber Heard, Embeth Davidtz, Julian McMahon, Richard Dreyfuss, Lucas Till, Angela Sarafyan, Kevin Kilner, Charlie Hofheimer

PRODUCER: Scott Lambert, William D. Johnson, Alexandra Milchan, Deepak Nayar

DIRECTOR: Robert Luketic

SCRIPT: Jason Dean Hall, Barry Levy (novel by Joseph Finder)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: David Tattersall

EDITOR: Dany Cooper

MUSIC: Junkie XL

PRODUCTION DESIGN: David Brisbin

RUNNING TIME: 115 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Icon

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 5, 2013







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