Nicholas Peterson’s Intellectual Property begins with a quote about McCarthyism before leading us into that world where this sort of persecution and paranoia was still going on. In typical thriller fashion, the film opens with a dastardly deed (a corpse being dragged across the floor) before finally making its way to that “summary” sequence at the end of the picture. It’s as if we as an audience don’t have the mind power to recall what happened during the 75 minutes prior. This is clearly a film where the viewer must pay attention to all that’s is going on. How come the filmmakers don’t trust us?
Paul is an eccentric sort who is only interested in one thing – invention. Broke and alone after his father and professor abandon him, he schemes money from a local gangster and skips town to work on a new invention. It’s not important what exactly he is working on (nor is it made clear) but what goes on during the process. Not only is Paul socially retarded, his experiences have made him paranoid beyond imagination. But when he meets a girl a local diner, his interests finally attach to something other than technology. All hope is lost for Paul however, when odd people show up at his door and people start to go missing.
Using sets built specifically for this story, Intellectual Property has an interesting production look to it. Paul’s apartment-turned-laboratory gets more eerie as time progresses which help to express the character’s decent into madness. Often times the camera work isn’t stylized enough to expose the world to its fullest potential. Masterson gives a quirky enough performance to articulate the mannerisms this character requires without going too over-the-top.
There is an interesting story to be told here. This is a character study of a character that is more interesting than the formulaic way he is represented. Think of it as a new age Pi but less kinetic and intellectually challenging. Although, it very well could have been.