dir Robert Luketic
scr Jason Hall, Barry L Levy
prd William D Johnson, Scott Lambert, Alexandra Milchan, Deepak Nayar
with Liam Hemsworth, Harrison Ford, Gary Oldman, Amber Heard, Lucas Till, Embeth Davidtz, Julian McMahon, Josh Holloway, Richard Dreyfuss, Angela Sarafyan, William Peltz, Haley Finnegan
release US 16.Aug.13, UK 7.Mar.14
13/US Relativity 1h46
Who's the boss: Oldman and Hemsworth

ford heard davidtz
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Paranoia This sleek, glassy thriller is mysterious enough to hold our interest even though corporate espionage isn't very exciting. But the main intent seems to be to play on our fear that technology exists only to control our every move and obliterate our privacy. These are interesting themes that the film never remotely explores.

Tech genius Adam (Hemsworth) feels trapped in his job at a mobile network and has huge medical bills due to his ill father (Dreyfuss). He's on the verge of getting a major promotion with his pal Kevin (Till), but their dismissive boss Wyatt (Oldman) sacks them instead. The next morning, Wyatt makes an offer Adam can't refuse: to work undercover for competitor Goddard (Ford). But things take one dark turn after another. Is it a coincidence that Adam's latest one-night stand Emma (Heard) works here? And who's the stranger (Holloway) following his every move?

Hemsworth is a likeable enough leading man, drawing us into Adam's predicament without having to do much heavy acting (his chief requirement is to take off his shirt every few minutes). Heard does her best to be a sexy-smart ice-queen, but barely registers as anything beyond a plot point. Fortunately they're surrounded by veterans who add the needed subtext. The only vaguely interesting element is the decades-old feud played with growly glee by Ford and Oldman.

Even so, the script never rises above the faux techno-geek jargon. So director Luketic continually hints that everything will escalate into something bigger and more earth-threatening. At least we hope it will. But the plot's wheels never gain traction, and it makes absolutely no sense if you bother to think about it. So by the time Adam's handlers (Davidtz and McMahon, slumming) give him a deadly ultimatum, we've lost interest.

Along the way, Luketic continually tries to ramp up suspense with small-stakes tension. He gets that anonymously slick look right, as well as the usual collection of stock characters and a plot that punches emotional notes (lost mother/dead son) with a cheesy score. There's even a the coda that's painfully obvious, moralistic and corny all at the same time. We know big business is rife with corporate sneakiness, but this is little more than a silly fantasy.

cert 12 themes, language, violence 24.Feb.14

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© 2014 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall