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Case Number 26739: Small Claims Court

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Paranoia (Blu-ray)

Fox // 2013 // 108 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Tom Becker (Retired) // December 27th, 2013

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All Rise...

Appellate Judge Tom Becker's a self-destroyer.

The Charge

In a war between kings, even a pawn can change the game.

The Case

Paranoia is an idiotic, undistinguished "thriller" with a single distinction: it had the worst opening weekend for a film in "very wide" release (2,000+ screens) in 2013. Even with a somewhat modest $35 million budget, the film failed to make back production costs, topping out at around $13 million for domestic and foreign sales.

Certainly, Paranoia was transparently appealing, what with its mix of veteran actors (Harrison Ford, Gary Oldman, Richard Dreyfuss) and young up-and-comers (Amber Heard, Lucas Till), and starring Liam Hemsworth, currently hot because of his (now-off) relationship with Miley Cyrus, his participation in The Hunger Games franchise, and the myriad half-naked photos of him that are all over the 'net. The plot is about corporate espionage in the wonderful world of cell phones, and if even half the people who stood in line dreaming of getting a new iPhone on day of release had seen this film, it probably would have broken even.

But transparency isn't really a word you want to consider where a thriller is concerned, even if itâs transparency of appeal. And despite its cast and its iPhone timeliness, Paranoia did crappy business.

And, I must say, deservedly so. This movie sucks.

I'll admit, I don't have the tolerance I should for silly, mindless thrillers. Instead of just going with a lot of improbabilities and occasional inanities, I get bugged by the logic lapses, contrivances, and coincidences that drive films like Fracture or One Hour Photo or A Perfect Murder. But Paranoia has something that these films, or other films of their ilk, do not have: an off-the-charts tedium factor. Paranoia is a remarkably dull movie.

Our story is of Adam (Hemsworth), an ambitious wonk who works for the Wyatt Corp., which manufactures cell phones. Adam and his nerd friends come up with a presentation to impress boss Nick Wyatt (Oldman), but he laughs them out of the conference room (understandably, by the way; it's a sucky idea). For some reason, Adam and his friends are fired for giving a sucky presentation, even though they've been working at Wyatt for six or seven years. In a burst of geek vengeance, Adam uses his corporate Amex to blow his pals to a wild night at a club, meaning that the genius Wyatt Corp. isn't savvy enough to cancel a terminated employee's charge card.

Anyway, Adam gets hauled back to the Wyatt Corp. building (after being "mysteriously traced" by a Wyatt henchman) and given a choice: he can either go to jail for credit card fraud or he can agree to infiltrate Eikon, Wyatt's biggest competitor, which is run by his one-time friend and mentor, Jock Goddard (Ford).

Why Adam? Why try to pass off a guy whose only notable achievement has been making a crummy presentation as a tech genius to someone who, presumably, is either the first or second most tech genius in the world?

Because, you know, it's that kind of movie.

Adam is dressed up in designer suits (as opposed to the jeans and sneakers he otherwise wears everywhere else, including to his all-important presentation), given a movie-starrish apartment, a cool car, and background on Goddard. He is then tasked with…well, it's not really all that clear what he's tasked with. Apparently, Goddard has some game-changing phone in the hopper—yeah, really—and Wyatt wants not just the specs on what this phone does, but he also needs to have a prototype to hold in his hand.

You can see where this is going—idiotic corporate skullduggery that's not on any level compelling, with bits of jargon and cell phone specs tossed in to make it "exciting." Unless you find the manual for your Smartphone to be a can't-put-it-down page-turner, you'll likely be bored and annoyed by Paranoia.

By the end, the whole thing has devolved into a condescending, wish-fulfillment fantasy for the Occupy Movement crowd, with the poor-but-earnest whippersnappers outsmarting the evil, wealthy overlords in ways that are as simplistic as they are intellectually insulting. I mean, for instance: Here is, presumably, the most technologically advanced human being on the face of the Earth, and when he wants to keep Adam in line by "sending a message," he arranges to have one of Adam's friends…hit by a car? Seriously? Just wait for the guy to step off a curb and hope that the car, which luckily has just the right parking spot, mows him down? I mean, between all the near-terrifying things that can be done with a Smartphone, along with what we've learned over seven seasons of Breaking Bad about ricin, are uber-connected villains still arranging "accidents" like this?

Anyway, Paranoia (Blu-ray) gets a perfectly acceptable release, with a decent if unexciting image and audio, a silly featurette on the lack of privacy in the world, an interview with the author of the book on which the film is based, some deleted scenes, and a trailer.

Paranoia was one of the worst reviewed and attended films of 2013…couldn't have happened to a nicer movie.

The Verdict


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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 25

Perp Profile

Studio: Fox
Video Formats:
• 2.40:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
Audio Formats:
• DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
• English (SDH)
• Spanish
Running Time: 108 Minutes
Release Year: 2013
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
• Bad
• Blu-ray
• Drama
• Thriller

Distinguishing Marks

• Deleted Scenes
• Featurettes
• Trailer
• DVD Copy


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