2 big stars can’t rescue 2 star script
The answer: “Paranoia.” The question: Provide an example of a recent film that proves two legendary actors can’t compensate for a lousy script. With back to school in full swing, it seems appropriate to begin a dissection of the mediocrity of the film “Paranoia” with this question and to follow it with the observation that it is a textbook example of how the importance of a good script trumps the need for star power.
Truth is, the tech-centric thriller “Paranoia” is actually watchable when Harrison Ford and Gary Oldman (finally reunited after 1997’s classic “Air Force One”) chew scenery as billionaire rivals of competing technology corporations. The film should have focused on them.
Instead, the primary plot involves ambitious programmer Adam Cassidy (Liam Hemsworth) who, after being snubbed for a promotion at Nicolas Wyatt’s (Oldman) mobile device multinational company, is blackmailed by Wyatt to infiltrate the conglomerate of Wyatt’s former mentor Jock Goddard (Ford) to steal trade secrets.
Predictably, Cassidy gets in over his head and things spin out of control, especially when he falls for Goddard’s marketing director, the beautiful but aloof Emma (Amber Heard). Speaking of over his head, Liam doesn’t produce the compelling charisma of his brother Chris (“Thor” from the Marvel series), but he’s not helped by a script that neither provides meaningful dialogue between him and Emma, nor anything remotely resembling a plot twist.
Other talented cast members whose potential is wasted include Richard Dreyfuss as Adam’s ailing father, Embeth Davidz as Wyatt’s confidante, and Josh Holloway as an FBI Agent who, given a more substantial opportunity, could have engendered more tension.
“Paranoia” would have been fine as a simple, slickly-produced TV movie, but with Ford and Oldman in the cast it can’t be considered anything but a big-screen letdown. Someone else can decide whether the main culprit was the choice of Robert Luketic (“The Ugly Truth”) to direct, or the source material (Joseph Finder’s novel).
But the film adaptation category is rife with examples of how a powerhouse writer-director combo can produce terrific results. Start with director Sydney Pollack and writer John Grisham’s collaboration on 1993’s “The Firm” for a similarly-themed story—and a positively Shakespearean film in comparison.
Rated PG-13 for some sexuality, violence and language
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