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posted: 8/15/2013 10:30 AM

'Paranoia' a silly, contrived cell-phony thriller

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  • Emma (Amber Heard) flirts with Adam (Liam Hemsworth), a hunky one-night stand in the corporate thriller "Paranoia."

      Emma (Amber Heard) flirts with Adam (Liam Hemsworth), a hunky one-night stand in the corporate thriller "Paranoia."

  • Video: "Paranoia" trailer

 
 

It's more like "Parannoying."

In this silly, contrived corporate espionage thriller, Hollywood heavyweights Harrison Ford and Gary Oldman try to out-chew each other on the glass-and-chrome office scenery in the Big Rotten Apple.

As former colleagues now turned despised enemies, the two will do anything to undermine and destroy the other, including murder, extortion, illegal surveillance and theft of crusty old quotations.

"Good artists copy," Ford's cellphone company CEO Jock Goddard says, "great artists steal!"

He says this bromide -- attributed to Stravinsky, Faulkner, Picasso and a zillion others -- to Adam Cassidy, an out-of-work twentysomething played by hunky "Hunger Games" actor Liam Hemsworth, here the 21st-century incarnation of "Grease 2" star Maxwell Caulfield.

Adam and his nerdy tech friends have just been fired from the cellphone company owned by wealthy Brit Nick Wyatt (Oldman) for failing to come up with any useful ideas.

But wait! Adam still has a company credit card for expenses, so he racks up $16,000 in charges for an all-night party with his buddies.

This displeases Wyatt, who threatens to turn Adam into the cops ... unless he agrees to get a job at Goddard's company as a mole to discover what new secret cellphone upgrade Goddard might be prepping for the market.

First, Adam, not the highest megapixel in the cellphone camera, must be prepped, dressed and armed for his undercover mission by Wyatt's right-hand assistant, Judith (Embeth Davidtz).

"Trust," she coos to Adam, "is the Holy Grail of espionage!"

Adam thinks he's got this, until he arrives at Goddard's office only to discover that Emma (Amber Heard), the pretty head of marketing, is the mystery woman he picked up at a bar, had wild sex with, but was too drunk to remember anything.

Awkward.

But not as awkward for Adam as when the FBI shows up and flashes photos of dead Wyatt employees, including one guy who presented ideas to Wyatt at the same meeting when Adam clutched. (Apparently there are worse punishments for stupid ideas than being fired.)

"Paranoia" is one of those shady thrillers where you never allow yourself to believe what you see, because you suspect (for good reason) that there's always going to be another "surprise" revelation or double-cross in this Russian-nesting-dolls plot, concocted by writers Barry "Vantage Point" Levy and Jason Hall, from a novel by Joseph Finder.

Robert "Win a Date With Tad Hamilton!" Luketic directs "Paranoia" with flairless lethargy that fails to generate much of the title's feelings of being constantly watched by nefarious entities, even though Adam and his friends really are being spied on at every turn.

Hemsworth doesn't really act here so much as offer a studied pose, a fixed frown of determination upon his brow, and he sports a surprising lack of physical presence for someone with such an impressive physique.

Heard is delightfully sexy and smart, perfectly cast as Emma.

Oscar-winning actor Richard Dreyfuss plays Adam's retired security guard father, a sick man whose health insurance has been canceled, leaving a $40,000 bill for his son.

Whatever criticism was intended for America's health care system disappears in a series of improbable chases, ridiculous plot twists and unconnecting characters spouting pedestrian dialogue.

"Paranoia" is the kind of movie that good artists would never copy. It's not worth stealing, either.

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