Blackhat is and isn’t a Michael Mann film. It sure looks like one, the vibe is all Mann, but the filmmaker’s ability to tell a compelling story amidst super-charged action scenes is completely missing from this thriller set in the world of hackers. There’s actually very little positive about Blackhat to recommend taking in a screening, even for the most diehard of Mann fans.
January’s long been considered the dumping grounds for movies studios have little faith in, and Blackhat is a prime example of what a January film looks like. Somewhere deep inside this illogical attempt at a drama about international cyber crimes is a fantastic idea. Unfortunately, the execution doesn’t do justice to the premise.
The plodding plot follows Chris Hemsworth (Thor) from his confinement in jail because of his computer hacking skills to being furloughed so that he can assist the governments of China and the U.S. in figuring out the mastermind behind a recent meltdown of a silo at a nuclear facility in China. That act of sabotage is followed closely by a run in the price of soy, with even further attacks promised if Hathaway (Hemsworth) can’t track down the hacker launching the attacks. Fortunately, part of the code the cyber criminal’s using was written by Hathaway and his ex-roommate who now works for the Chinese government. What? Yes, it just so happens the authors of the code are the American criminal and the Chinese agent who are now charged with finding the rogue hacker who’s collecting millions and wreaking havoc from stealing their code.
Why a hacker suddenly turns into an action hero in the second half of the movie, and why there seems to be only five people on the planet who care that there’s a hacker at large not only capable of taking down a nuclear facility but actually carrying out the plan is never explained. Also left unanswered is why this guy who’s been locked up in prison and is suddenly sprung by his old friend would turn around and sleep with his friend’s sister within 24 hours of leaving prison. Of course, that brings up the bigger issue of why screenwriter Morgan Davis Foehl felt the need to turn the main female character who’s intelligent, fast on her feet, and an accomplished coder in her own right into a woman who sleeps with a guy she just met before ultimately relegating her to a damsel-in-distress type of character by the time the film ends.
Hemsworth has delivered great performances in films that don’t involve costumed superheroes (Rush, The Cabin in the Woods), so we know he’s able to stretch outside of the action genre. But the role of a Chicago hacker isn’t a smooth fit for Hemsworth. Also completely out of place is Wei Tang who plays the love interest/sister/underutilized code writer. Tang’s accent makes it difficult to understand some of her lines, but the main problem is that she never gets control of the character. Of course, the blame for that also lies in the script and Mann’s direction as the development of her character – from her motivations to her emotional responses – is left dangling in the wind.
By the time we actually meet the villain it’s too little too late. Even the climatic fight sequence is an underwhelming, ridiculous conclusion to this uninspiring film set in this high tech world. Also underwhelming is the film’s color palette, which is all gray and muted, and the overall visual style of the movie can only be described as depressingly drab.
Blackhat takes far too long to wrap up and by the time it does tie a Hollywood bow on the international hunt for the cyber villain, so many leaps in logic have occurred that it’s difficult to take anything about this R-rated action film seriously.
Blackhat is rated R for violence and some language.
Running time: 133 minutes
Release date: January 16, 2015
-By Rebecca Murray
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