Some movies are simply comfort food, no different from a favorite old sitcom or a well-constructed PB&J sandwich: originality is not the point. “Newness” is not what we’re after. “Comfort” simply appeals because we know what we’re getting, we already know we like it, and we’re just not in the mood for anything challenging or exciting right now.
The very basic but still well-made thriller known as Paranoia seems to fall comfortably within this designation: there’s nothing here you haven’t had before, but hell, sometime we’re just happy enough to get something simple, familiar, and satisfying. And while Robert Luketic’s Paranoia is little more than yet another re-telling of The Firm (only this time it’s warring cell phone corporations rather than a shady law firm), it’s still just fresh and shiny enough to warrant another run-through – mainly for one big reason.
The cast in this thing is simply fantastic! Yes, the screenplay (by Barry Hall and Jason Dean Levy, based on the novel by Joseph Finder) is a smooth and appealing collection of scenes, ideas, and characters you’ve seen before, but let’s give credit where it’s due: not only does Paranoia feature some devilishly amusing work from veterans like Harrison Ford and Gary Oldman, but it lets ladies like Amber Heard and the always great Embeth Davidtz steal a few scenes. Plus, the background is populated with colorful folks like Lucas Till, Julian McMahon, Kevin Kilner, and Josh Holloway – so even when the plot machinations are at their most predictable, at least the stuff is being delivered by some strong professionals.
If leading man Liam Hemsworth gets a bit lost among all these seasoned performers, don’t feel too bad for the guy. He’s still got a bit more charm than most of the actors of his age and career “level.” Plus he gets to share a few legitimately sweet scenes with screen legend Richard Dreyfuss…like I said, Paranoia is more fun as a collection of performances than it is a full-bore, kick-ass “paranoia” thriller.
Paranoia is well-shot and moves forward at an appreciable clip, although it certainly seems like Act III was tossed into the editing bin on more than one occasion, and while the screenplay is frequently pedantic and obvious, it never becomes overtly dumb, and with a standard potboiler like this, you take the good stuff where you can find it. The “nice kid who gets embroiled in corporate espionage before learning a crucial lesson” is little more than an easel on which to hang some decent cinematography and a frankly excellent ensemble.
Basically, Paranoia is little more than a well-polished TV Movie of the Week with a much better cast than a TV movie could ever afford. There’s not much about the movie you’ll remember a week after seeing it, but as a professional example of empty-calorie matinee-style cinematic simplicity, Paranoia works well enough.
Writer. Movie critic. Producer. Semi-actor. Wise-ass. Film advocate. Horror geek. Cat fan. Twitter junkie. Follow me at @scotteweinberg.