If Harrison Ford looks particularly peeved when he finally shows up (40 minutes in) in the corporate espionage caper Paranoia, it could be because of the script he's been handed. As one of the dueling tech titans pulling the puppet strings on the movie's blue-eyed, broad-shouldered, can't-act-his-way-out-of-a-paper-bag hero (Liam Hemsworth), Ford has to condemn the young upstart's "blind ambition" and warn him that "I'm going to make your life a living hell!"
Gary Oldman, as Ford's archrival, gets his share of freshly minted gems, too. "You'll never get away with this!" he cries at one point.
Well, he should be crying.
Set in New York (and shot mostly in Philly - see below), Paranoia has the requisite components of a cool, modern thriller: a glassy, electronic score; quick, jarring cutaways; sleek, modern interiors; a "hipster" hero with a posse of nerdy, cute coworkers. What it lacks is even an iota of originality.
Directed by Robert Luketic (Legally Blonde), from an adaptation of the Joseph Finder novel, Paranoia finds Hemsworth's Adam Cassidy struggling to make ends meet. His dad (Richard Dreyfuss) is on oxygen and in and out of the hospital, and after a social-media software presentation to his boss, Nicolas Wyatt (Oldman), fails to impress, Adam and his gang are given the heave-ho. But Wyatt Industries isn't done with Adam. The squirrely CEO wants him to go to work for the competition - Wyatt's onetime business partner, Jock Goddard (Ford) - to steal the design of a new smartphone.
It is, of course, a smartphone like no other. It will revolutionize the communications industry and make whoever owns the technology exceedingly rich.
Adam isn't comfortable with this spy business, but he has no choice - and Goddard seems to like him, as does his marketing whiz, Emma Jennings (Amber Heard), with whom, it so happens, Adam had already had a one-night stand. It isn't long before Adam and Emma make that two nights, and then three. Cue the love-making montage.
Hemsworth, who is Gale Hawthorne in The Hunger Games and the brother of the Hemsworth who stars as Thor, has maybe one arrow in his acting quiver - he can look engaged. He looks engaged when he's canoodling with Heard, he looks engaged when he's running down an alley being chased by goons, he looks engaged when he's thumbing the keys of his smartphone, and when he takes off his T-shirt and walks around in his jeans.
Unfortunately, he never once looks paranoid, even when he discovers the cameras and microphones planted all over the fancy new apartment Wyatt has set him up in. The movie's called Paranoia, dude. Get on it!
Of parochial note: While a hundred skyline fly-over shots keep reminding us that Paranoia takes place in the Big Apple (and Dreyfuss wears a Yankees cap, and the license plates all read "New York"), the movie was shot mainly in Philadelphia. Here are a few of the landmarks and locations that Hemsworth, Heard, Ford, Oldman, and company can be seen in and around: the Comcast Center tower, the Beasley Building, the Lanesborough condominiums, the Kimmel Center, the concourse beneath Broad Street, the sidewalks of 20th and Spruce Streets, Third and Race Streets in Old City, and the Moravian Street alley where Hemsworth, in the opening shot of Paranoia, is running for his life.
Paranoia ** (Out of four stars)
Directed by Robert Luketic. With Liam Hemsworth, Gary Oldman, Harrison Ford, Richard Dreyfuss, and Amber Heard. Distributed by Relativity Media.
Running time: 1 hour, 46 mins.
Parent's guide: PG-13 (violence, profanity, adult themes)
Playing at: area theaters