Nicholas Hathaway (Chris Hemsworth), a brilliant hacker who has gone astray, is serving a 15-year prison sentence, but is offered a second chance from the American government. After part of a computer code he once wrote appeared in a malware that triggered a terrorist attack in China, the Feds turns to Hathaway for help in tracking down the cyber criminal who is seeking to cripple the international banking network.
Director Michael Mann has earned deserved acclaim for such films as Thief, Manhunter, Heat, The Insider and Collateral. His last two films, Miami Vice and Public Enemies were a step back from what he’s normally capable of, the former being pretty bad and the latter while not bad, being just okay. Knowing his skill in the thriller genre and the relevancy of tackling an issue like cyberterrorism, Blackhat seems like a return to form for Mann.
Well, I thought I’d never say this about a filmmaker whose work I’ve admired for years, but the ending to Blackhat couldn’t have come any sooner.
It now makes perfect sense as to why this film would be released in January.
First things first, Chris Hemsworth is completely miscast here. In fairness to Hemsworth, he has a lot more going for him than just Thor. He’s proven he can act without the hammer in Ron Howard’s Rush, a film he was quite good in, and showed he can be self-deprecating in The Cabin in the Woods. Not one second, though, did I ever buy him as an intelligent, MIT-level computer hacker. Even worse, is the nonsensical, shoehorned romance between him and Tang Wei that comes out of left field and contains zero chemistry.
Then again, as poorly written as Morgan Davis Foehl’s script is, it’s hard to imagine that Hemsworth could still make do with such a mishandled role even if he was right for the part. Expositions are tacked on and rushed, the hacker villains are one-note throwaways with motives void of any intrigue or substance, and at times things border on laughably absurd. One moment that’s impossible to overlook is the 6’3″, blonde Chris Hemsworth walking amongst a crowd of Asians in Jakarta, with a gun in his hand, and no one seems to notice.
Yes, slap on a baseball cap and have an Asian girlfriend wrapped around his arms and he just blends right in.
What’s most disappointing is that this is coming from a filmmaker who’s mastered the thriller genre, yet there’s barely an ounce of suspense. I’m not saying I needed wall-to-wall action, explosions, and to be clinging to the edge of my seat for the entire 133-minute run time. I’m all for a slow burn, “ADD need not apply” intelligent thriller, but the characters are so flat everything drags at a sloooooooooooow crawl. Every now and then, Mann presents us with an action setpiece (there’s a midpoint shootout that’s moderately thrilling), but more often than not, the distractingly choppy camerawork gets in the way.
Even from a visual standpoint, an aspect Mann’s always excelled at, it’s still a mixed bag. Location shots of Hong Kong, Indonesia and Kuala Lumpur look beautiful, but overall there’s a murky, low-resolution look to the film that comes off unpleasant. That, and Mann places too much emphasis on stylish visual touches such as the opening tracking shot of the virus as it moves through microchips, a visual cue that would’ve had some flair to it if it wasn’t overlong, and Mann didn’t keep bringing it back up about a hundred more times throughout the film.
At the very least, the very talented Viola Davis gives a good performance. That, however, speaks more to her ability to elevate the poor material she’s been given.
Poorly plotted, poorly paced and a miscast turn from Chris Hemsworth, Blackhat is a gigantic step backward for director Michael Mann. Given the recent issues at Sony Studios, one can’t deny the timeliness of this film, but one also can’t deny how indescribably dull and shockingly flat this film is after seeing it, that is assuming you’re awake by the end of it.
I give Blackhat a D (★).
Review source: http://silverscreenfanatic.com/2015/01/16/blackhat/