Office Christmas Party
Another reminder that allowing your cast to madly improvise instead of actually providing a coherent script with a scintilla of inherent logic often leads to…
The last time that Harrison Ford and Gary Oldman shared the screen together, the former was politely but firmly imploring the latter to get off of his plane in the somber 1997 docudrama "Air Force One." Now, after all these years, the two have reunited for the slightly less plausible "Paranoia" and once again find themselves going down in flames, this time inadvertently. Here is a film that clearly wants to be a gripping techno-thriller but feels as if it was designed both by and for people who still have not quite figured out how to get their Kindles to work.
Our hero, for lack of a more accurate or printable term, is Adam Cassidy (Liam Hemsworth), a poor-but-hunky low-level employee of WyattCorp, a multinational tech firm run by the all-powerful Nicolas Wyatt (Oldman). One day, Adam goes before the boss with his development team for a pitch meeting and whiffs things so spectacularly that he gets the entire group terminated right then and there. Although it has been previously established that WyattCorp is ruthless and greedy enough to reduce Adam's company insurance at just the precise moment that his sickly dad (Richard Dreyfuss) lands in the hospital, they inexplicably leave the group's corporate credit card up and running long enough for him to lead the gang out for an insanely expensive night on the town and himself into the bed of comely go-getter Emma Jennings (Amber Heard).
The next day, Adam is called back before Wyatt but instead of having him arrested or pulped, his former boss makes him an offer that he cannot refuse—be groomed into the perfect candidate for a top-level job at the rival tech firm run by Wyatt's one-time mentor and current rival Jack Goddard (Ford) and use his access to purloin the details of a top-secret project. With the aid of a "Pygmalion"-style grooming overseen by Dr. Judith Bolton (Embeth Davidtz) and the muscle provided by Wyatt's chief goon (Julian McMahon), Adam worms his way into the company and Goddard's good graces—not to mention Emma, who just happens to work there as well—and everything seems to be going swimmingly, but once the FBI begins sniffing around, it gradually begins to dawn on him that he is now caught in a web of lies and deceit and must use his wits to play his oppressors off of each other in an effort to survive.
You will notice that I did not mention "paranoia" in that web and that is because this is one of the least paranoid paranoid thrillers that you will ever experience. Some might argue that this is what you get when you put potentially suspenseful material in the hands of a filmmaker like Robert Luketic, a director whose oeuvre includes "Legally Blonde," "Win a Date with Tad Hamilton" and two lesser Katherine Heigl vehicles ("The Ugly Truth" and "Killers"). Then again, not even the likes of Hitchcock himself could have done much with the material supplied here by screenwriters Jason Dean Hall and Barry Levy, working from the novel by Joseph Finder.