I am not entirely sure where one could place a Shroud of Turin on the movie formula where a young actor that has been labeled (either by the populous or in increasing cases recently by a movie studio) the next big thing or an up and comer is cast opposite a veteran actor or actors. Perhaps a director is included in the mix. But growing up, I can recall Tom Cruise almost ticking off the boxes for the actors and/or directors he wanted to work with, and regardless of your thoughts on his off-camera life, he has a somewhat reputable filmography. Not many people could boast working with Oliver Stone, Martin Scorsese, Ridley Scott, Paul Newman, Dustin Hoffman and Robert Duvall by the time they turned 30. But today, young marquee stars seem to not want to do that much anymore, which is a bit of a shame.
Speaking of shames, let's talk about Paranoia, shall we? Joseph Finder's novel was adapted into a screenplay by Jason Hall (Spread) and Barry Levy (Vantage Point), and Robert Luketic (21) directed. Liam Hemsworth (The Hunger Games) plays Adam, who works in New York City but lives across the bridge in New Jersey, taking care of his father (Richard Dreyfuss, Jaws). He works for a communications company and has an interesting sales pitch for the company's boss, a man named Nicolas Wyatt (Gary Oldman, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy). When Wyatt turns down Adam's proposal Adam lashes out and he and his team are fired. Adam decides to blow an expense account on a night at the club for his team, and when Wyatt finds out, he offers Adam a proposition: serve time for the theft, or become palatable enough to be hired at a company owned by Wyatt's rival, Jock Goddard (Harrison Ford, 42). Once there, Adam should get close to Jock, and acquire whatever information he can on a new technology that Jock's company will be rolling out. Does Adam get this information? Will he even do it? Can I ask more rhetorical questions?
The motivations of Paranoia seem to be evident early on, starting with a voiceover introduction by Hemsworth which accomplishes nothing than repeating little more than contentions made by an "Occupy Wall Street" protest. Millionaires are bad, income equality boo, punish the 1%. And I get that, but the ensuring 105 minutes of Paranoia do little to make any real connection with the audience, the story is like the athlete on the old "Track and Field" arcade game, clearing an occasional hurdle that many others have done easier and with more skill. The love interest in Paranoia is played by Amber Heard (The Rum Diary) and her performance is fine, but is not unlike countless love interest plotlines before it. Not imaginary, occasionally has sex and betrayal but little else.
However, the love scene does give Hemsworth a chance to show off what he looks like without his shirt, which he manages to do several times in fact. And I understand that he's the flavor of the month and that people are going for the beefcake to some degree, but at least with prior young, attractive stars, there has been some acting acumen that is associated with it. He does show a bit of cockiness to go along with the looks that show some sign of self-confidence, but when he starts to stretch things is when the film gets a bit pear-shaped. He tries to hold his own with Oldman and Ford in separate scenes, but the two are content with chewing on the scenery at times, doing perfectly good impressions of Gary Oldman and Harrison Ford, while Hemsworth is not up to much of a challenge.
Look, I realize that Paranoia is little more than a transparent vehicle to market whomever the next big twenty something actor is, no matter how naked the effort is to market said actor. But the simple fact of the matter is Hemsworth lacks the chops to match skills with some of the people he is up against, and it makes an average story look worse in the process. If Hollywood is going to screw the viewer out of cash to see these things these days, even a hint of some foreplay would be appreciated.
The AVC encoded transfer Fox adorns Paranoia with (in 2.40:1 widescreen) looks amazing to be sure. Image detail is ample in the background, with numerous wide shots of New York City appearing amazing and having a multidimensional look to them. In closer scenes the detail does not hold up as well but is still fine regardless. Scenes which happen in darker lit moments or in nightclubs (as the first act includes) are deep and inky, providing for a nice contrast. Shadow delineation is good and even though the movie is not all that hot, the disc is good technically.
The DTS-HD MA lossless 5.1 surround track for the film is additionally up to the task. Dialogue is strong and consistent throughout and the film gives the subwoofer an unexpected workout, starting with the aforementioned club sequence and later when a jet flies over a swimming pool that Hemsworth floats in, the former of which rattles the walls. But more subtle things like channel panning and directional effects are present and convincing. The soundstage is quite broad and the listening experience for the film is outstanding, even if the film is not up to the creative task.
Things start with four deleted scenes (4:48) that are worth skipping over, followed by "Privacy is Dead" (6:00), which looks at technology, the impacts of it in our lives both positively and negatively, how surveillance cameras are prevalent in society and what it is doing to redefine privacy, along with the NSA, Prism and the like. It is interesting in the sense that some substance was included on the disc, other than that, eh. "The Paranoia Begins" (5:50) looks at how the crew got to the material and the idea for the book itself, the intent of said book and the challenge of adapting it. "The Players" (5:23) is the casting-centric piece which focuses on the actors and includes the obligatory thoughts on the material and working with one another. The trailer (2:24) is also included. The package also comes with a standard definition disc and code for a digital (iTunes only) copy for your dining and dancing pleasure.
Paranoia tries to make Liam Hemsworth happen as some sort of acting presence, but he does not have it in him for one thing, and for another he spends more time looking pretty than looking respectable. Despite two above the title acting presences, the story still lacks any form of originality and becomes arduous to watch. Technically, the film looks and sounds great, though lacks any extras to make it a worthwhile purchase. But hey, if you want to look at what some people think is the next big thing be my guest, but I would skip it otherwise.