Blackhat could have...no wait it should have been a good if not excellent film. The film dealt with a very timely subject of hackers, cybercrime and cyber terrorism that is a major threat to regular citizens private lives to the worlds vulnerable infrastructures as we with the hacking/virus that crippled Iran's nuclear program a few years ago most people suspect came from the United States and Israel, to hackers hacking into celebrities cell phones and releasing nude photos they had taken to the scandals over the hacking of Sony. There was a lot of great information and suspected information to create a well done film, and then you include a venerable director like Michael Mann who has done some really top notch thrillers in Heat, The Last of the Mohicans, Collateral, and The Insider, and then you throw in huge rising star in Chris Hemsworth, Blackhat should have been a good film, but disappointingly Blackhat is far from a good film.
The film starts off well with a nuclear power plant in China being hacked into causing one reactor to explode, and threating a meltdown, and a hack of the United States stock market. This leads Captain Chen Dawai (Leehom Wang) of the Chinese military and his sister Chen Lien (Wei Tang) to the United States to work with the FBI and agent Carol Barrett (Viola Davis) to catch the cyber terrorist. Yes the beginning of Blackhat was interesting especially about hacking and code, and all that stuff I really don't know anything about, and could have been turned into a compelling film, but quickly dissolves into plodding nonsensical mess of a film thanks to Morgan Davis Foehl combined with some bad editing and Mann's questionable filming decisions.
Things quickly began to unravel with the story once the FBI got Nick Hathaway (Chris Hemsworth) out of prison. First the endless internet jargon was boring once it is used over and over again, and certainly would be hard technological inept to follow what is happening in the film. Next is the unbelievable and really needless romance between Nick and Chen. They meet for the first time when Nick gets out of prison, and the next day their having sex. The romance just didn't work, and the two actors had no chemistry to make it believable. The whole thinking of the villain just didn't make any sense. If he was in for the money I have no doubt there are much easier ways to get the money he wants, and then there are the bad guys themselves in Kassar (Ritchie Coster) and the un-named mastermind played by Yorick van Wageningen. Neither one of them had any presence or seemed threating at all not like Tom Cruise in Collateral, Robert DeNiro in Heat, or even John Ortiz in Miami Vice, which lead the film to be very predictable and anti-climactic.
Michael Mann's direction choices and decisions are certainly questionable in Blackhat. Mann's decision to use what I guess is called a digital camera/shaky camera to film Blackhat certainly was a bad choice. It absolutely didn't work in Public Enemies and it doesn't work here in Blackhat. I guess he uses them to add realism and grittiness to the film, but what it actually does is turn the film into a mess. The action sequences are badly filmed and put together, and then there are just some of his filming decisions like to have Chris Hemsworth starring off either into the camera or into the background endlessly and for what seems like minutes at a time. The first time it happens is when Hathway is at the airport with the FBI about to take off and he stairs off into the scenery for at least a minute. This first scene I can understand as Nick has just gotten out of prison for the first time in years, so yeah I can get that the filming decision and character choice, but Mann continues to do this endlessly throughout the film, a film that should have been edited down to less than two hours.
Speaking of the set pieces director Michael Mann used to be a master at them creating some truly masterfully thrilling action/drama sequences. The ambush of the British soldiers in The Last of the Mohicans is just one as it was exceptionally directed and filmed, as was the climax of the film. Who can forget the meeting between Robert DeNiro, and Al Pacion in Heat? It was the very first time the two acclaimed actors had filmed a scene together. It was a simple quiet scene between these two great actors that Mann wrote and directed, and who can forget the absolutely thrilling climatic shootout at the end of the film was the DeNiro and his fellow robbers were leaving the bank. Even the lackluster Miami Vice had its moments, but Blackhat had one half a scene that was truly thrilling and well filmed, but in general the set pieces of Blackhat were just bad. The gun battle/chase through Hong Kong was poorly done and filmed, and the climax in Jakarta was just predictable, boring and anti-climactic. The one good half set piece took place about two thirds of his way through the film. Kassar had put a tracer on one of the Hong Kong's detective's cars even though they could have just followed Hathway and the others to the restaurant and kill them. No Kassar and his men decide in a very predictable manner to follower the car for what seemed like days, and just randomly waiting for Hathaway and Chen to be out of the car before he blows it up. What came after it was somewhat thrilling as Carol and fellow FBI agent played by Holt McCallany come onto the scene leading to the only real riveting scene in the film.
Michael Mann was once one of my favorite directors of all time, but after the terrible Public Enemies, the disappoint bad Blackhat, and to a lesser extent the lackluster Miami Vice the shine has somewhat come off Mann's once great directing career, and perhaps it's time for Mann to fold up his directing chair and leave the stage going out as still a respected director before it's too late. As for Blackhat the film should have been a great film. It certainly had a timely subject dealing with cybercrime and terrorism, and maybe with a better writer, a director like David Fincher or Christopher Nolan along with a better cast Blackhat could have been a good film, but the film we've got is an absolute mess.