By Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times Film Critic
5:52 PM EDT, August 15, 2013
There are roles worth shaving your head for … I'm thinking Anne Hathaway's severely shorn locks in "Les Misérables," Ben Kingsley's meditative pate in "Gandhi," and Oscars for both. Buzzed is an easy way to say tough with real conviction — Jake Gyllenhaal's seared soldier in "Jarhead," Natalie Portman's futuristic punk in "V for Vendetta" and Charlize Theron taking it down to the roots for next year's new edition of "Mad Max." And honestly, would "The Rock" have wrestled his way to movie stardom so memorably if Dwayne Johnson hadn't gone boldly bare?
Then there is "Paranoia." Did Harrison Ford hope the shorn look would give his high-tech mogul Jock Goddard some edge? He certainly needed something to.
There are different issues for Liam Hemsworth's leading man, Adam Cassidy. He's a good-looking, wait, make that fantastic-looking techie wunderkind who gets in the middle of a grudge match between Goddard and another computer kingpin, Nicholas Wyatt. Gary Oldman hangs on to his hair, though he's asked to ride his British accent a bit too hard.
Back to Hemsworth and Adam. Theoretically the movie is about some serious double-crossing, with Adam forced by Wyatt to go undercover so he can steal a major new gizmo from Goddard. Screenwriters Jason Hall and Barry Levy adapted Joseph Finder's bestselling corporate espionage thriller, which gives the film its name, but by the time "Paranoia" makes it to the screen, the thrill is gone.
Director Robert Luketic — whose best work remains his first work, 2001's "Legally Blonde" starring Reese Witherspoon — keeps his focus on Adam. Actually make that Hemsworth, because it's the actor not the character who is the object of his obsession.
There are enough beauty shots of Hemsworth to fill every fashion pages in GQ for an entire year. And I have to give it to them — at least on that front the film delivers. Hemsworth sweats through workouts, dresses down in worn flannel shirts and jeans for bar scenes, spiffs up in designer suits to fool Goddard and, best of all, gets tangled up in the sheets with a high-tech honey named Emma (Amber Heard). The camera lingers on as much of that toned-to-perfection 6-foot-3 frame as it can and still hang on to that R.
The quote-unquote paranoia is supposed to come from Wyatt's evil intentions and the technology that is tracking every move Adam makes. Wyatt sets him up in a modernist dream apartment, the better to plant the young man inside Goddard's organization. As it happens, Adam is kind of like a young Goddard — both are bootstrap types, real scrappers, which Goddard will take time to overstate in one of their heart to hearts. Both men suffered painful losses — Goddard lost a son and Adam lost his mother. Much of the male bonding occurs in Goddard's richly appointed library, all dark woods and weathered leather.
I'm not going to get into the acting, because there's not much of it, frankly. No one is embarrassingly bad; no one is exceptionally good. Better to remember the actors for better thrillers, Ford in "Witness," Oldham in "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy," Hemsworth in "The Hunger Games."
There are few surprises despite lots of twists and turns as Adam tries to figure a way to escape with his life. If you were hoping for interesting insight into all the ways technology is redefining our world, again I'd point to you other, better stuff, like "The Social Network."
Instead the director gives us more beauty shots. The super-secret projects Goddard is working on, including that gizmo Adam is supposed to steal, are kept behind a steel gate that is another designer's dream — in brushed-steel boxes on what looks to be velvet-covered podiums with their very own spotlights.
Oh, I almost forgot — it's easy to get distracted by all the pretty — there is one role worth remembering. The reason Adam is willing to break laws and risk his life is his dad, Richard Dreyfuss. Not his real dad, his movie dad, a crusty old-timer. Some of their moments are really sweet, and there is not one drip of sarcasm in that particular observation.
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