The principal problem with "Paranoia" is that it doesn't live up to its title.
Solid mind-benders leave you truly creeped out; think of "The Game," "The Parallax View," "The Conversation," "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" - or John Frankenheimer's "Seconds," recently remastered for a Criterion DVD.
This film is just too tidy and simplistic to join those paranoid classics.
From left, Gary Oldman, Liam Hemsworth and Harrison Ford are shown in a scene from “Paranoia.”
To be honest, "Paranoia" isn't quite boring enough, or inept enough, to deserve its dismal four percent rating at Rotten Tomatoes; but it isn't particularly gripping, either.
Liam Hemsworth stars as Adam Cassidy, an ambitious office worker whose even more ambitious boss (Gary Oldman) convinces him to work for a competing boss (Harrison Ford) and pilfer his latest technology innovation.
The plot doesn't get much more complex than that (though there is one dandy surprise); in an era of swift, twisty thrillers, "Paranoid" isn't half as smart as it thinks it is.
Indeed, the film doesn't have much going for it except a highly effective cast - and that's barely enough to keep it afloat for most of its length.
"Paranoia's" high point is a pair of scenes between Oldman and Ford, both playing guys you love to hate. It's almost worth the admission price just to watch these two old pros square off.
After a drought of nearly a decade, Ford is having quite a year.
He ought to get an Oscar nod for his work in "42"; he's just terrific here, sporting a shaved head and a ferocious demeanor that toys coyly with his underlying warmth; and he's got a key role in "Ender's Game," out Nov. 1.
(Not to mention Ford's recent signing for the seventh "Star Wars" - along with Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and director J. J. Abrams.)
Hemsworth - best known as Gale in "The Hunger Games" - does fairly well with his shapeless, watery character. He's a bit too likable for the role - which really needs a nastier edge - but that fault too lies partly with the script.
Faring much better are Richard Dreyfuss as Adam's ailing father; Amber Heard as the love interest (though her character is poorly scripted as well); and Lucas Till as Adam's faithful friend.
Till manages an appealing, three-dimensional character in just a few scenes; he's clearly an actor to keep an eye on.
In spite of these performances, "Paranoia" struggles to drum up sufficient menace, hoping that a few juvenile gimmicks (jump cuts, staticky blips) and many pointless close-ups of surveillance cameras will provide what's lacking in the script.
The end is particularly disappointing, with everything wrapped up in a cheerful little package that tries - and fails - to ignore all the foregoing grief and betrayal.
So now I've discussed "42," J. J. Abrams, "The Hunger Games," Harrison Ford's career and "The Conversation"; I guess I just couldn't rustle up a full review's worth of interest in the film at hand.
Try "Seconds" instead; unlike "Paranoia," that neglected gem is hard to forget.
** (out of four)
The film is rated PG-13 for language, alcohol and sexuality.