Blackhat

blackhat-movie-poster

Release: Friday, January 16, 2015

[Theater]

Written by: Morgan Davis Foehl

Directed by: Michael Mann

Even with an hilariously miscast Chris Hemsworth, Blackhat is utterly forgettable.

Something that’s less forgettable is its horrendous opening weekend performance. Set against a budget of $70 million, Michael Mann’s cybercrime would-be-thriller brought in a grand total of $1.7 million in its debut, necessarily deeming Blackhat one of the biggest box office bombs in cinematic history given its wide release status.

At best, the pairing of a Hollywood hunk with a predominantly international cast is amusing if for the opportunity to count all the ways in which the film panders to a global audience. If that wasn’t enough, the lack of chemistry between the towering Brit and his computer hacking buddies — Leehom Wang’s Chen Dawai, and Wei Tang’s Chen Lien, who are brother and sister in the film — are the glitches that bring this story to its knees.

Mr. Mann captures some compelling action sequences but the stunt work goes to waste when we’re having trouble even believing the actors in roles that have them staring at computer screens for most of the time. Hemsworth plays Nick Hathaway, a computer hacker serving prison time because he’s a real bastard behind keyboard and mouse. His direct involvement isn’t made clear right away, but two major events occur at the film’s open that we’re meant to pay attention to (but can’t because they’re somewhat trivialized by a confusing series of shots detailing the inner workings of computers): a nuclear reactor in Hong Kong experiences a catastrophic coolant malfunction, while the Mercantile Trade Exchange based in Chicago gets hacked.

Whoever’s clever enough to hack these systems is going to have to answer for the damage, or so say some stern-looking Chinese government officials. They enlist the help of the FBI, in the form of Agent Carol (Viola Davis in an ironic performance; her voice is so monotonous she sounds more of a computer hacker than anyone else) in bringing those responsible to justice. At first, everyone believes these attacks to be the work of Thor. They may as well be. Hemsworth-as-hacker is about as out of place as his demigod was on Earth.

Hathaway’s asked to help solve the crimes together with Dawai and the FBI in tow, but his condition is that his prison sentence be commuted and that he gets to have the cute girl in the end.  Though he does not make the second request, you know this is happening regardless. And how. Talk about some majorly underdeveloped character arcs. The team are soon bouncing all over the globe in an effort to track down the cyber terrorists, who are now aiming to take out more nuclear reactors in order to flood an expansive tin mine in Jakarta, Indonesia.

The terrorists’ goals aren’t exactly revelatory but they work well enough to assume a threat. But in a movie like Blackhat, where more time is spent deciphering code and, apparently, studying the inner workings of hard drives, the real world doesn’t take center stage. Or when the threat finally becomes truly palpable, any audience member not in possession of a degree in computer science has long since tuned out. An error message reads on the front of their foreheads: this does not compute. This does not compel.

The director should be credited for his commitment to getting things right. The focus on the technical aspects, even if excruciatingly boring at times, is impressive. Unfortunately computer screens and staring at endless code sequences — unless we’re in the Matrix — do not on their own make for an interesting product. Then, when we get to the action sequences they’re too short-lived to make much of an impression. I suppose I could keep going here, but the review might get a little mean-spirited. I’m no blackhat critic, out for malicious intent. Out for revenge upon the world just because.

I just happen to think this movie vastly underserves both its audience — on either side of the Atlantic — and its particularly timely themes.

This. A whole lot of this.

This. A whole lot of this. Exciting, right?

1-5Recommendation: Blackhat has grand aspirations but it squanders them in a navel-gazing screenplay that is more interested in getting underneath the keyboard instead of into the minds of some high-profile cyber-terrorists. Fans of Chris Hemsworth will also be wise to stay clear of this one, this isn’t his best effort. I’m not even sure if I can recommend this one to the geekiest of computer geeks.

Rated: R

Running Time: 133 mins.

Quoted: “You are no longer in control. . .”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited. 

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com 

Advertisements

30 thoughts on “Blackhat

  1. Poor Hemsy! Never should’ve gotten roped into this one…Nice review, Tom! Good to know my initial instinct to steer clear of this one was spot-on. Lol.

  2. Geez, so many awful flicks rotating around these days. Another one I will have to skip over. Good review!

    • Thanks Vic, I am proud to be able to shelter you from another dud. Who knows though; I might be a big complainer who’s never satisfied with anything There might be something here you’d might like. 🙂

  3. This gets an ‘A’ from me for Awfulness!! It’s just so disappointing as Michael Mann has done so many great work and I was expecting a modern noir from him here, alas …

    • Yeah to be honest I have no idea what caused me to go see this. The trailers did nothing for me. And I think the movie actually did even less! Haha! Cheers dude, thanks for stopping on by .

    • 100% dude. Action sequences were brilliant but the rest left too much to be desired. Oh Michael Mann. . you’re insanely average style continues to elude me as to why people think you are so so good. . .

  4. I’m a massive Mann apologist, but the trailer for this looks, at best, average. It falls into the trap of doing silly things like showing the travel of data as a special effect, while Thor looks horribly miscast. As always Tom, fine work.

    • Precisely! Man, I was trying to find a way to explain that bit but yeah that’s exactly it. He does these weird animated sequences that I’m sure are intended to create tension and suspense but unless you’re super hardcore into computers and hacking and all that, it just all falls flat. Thta’s the least of the problems though when it comes to how the entire picture plays out. Just a very forgettable film, I’m afraid. And that box office open really proves that.

    • Great to hear you did have some fun with it. I guess I did as well, but in very very small doses spread very far apart throughout. This film had no real identity. And I don’t know why Mann had to cast Hemsworth here. That role could have been better played by virtually anyone.

    • What’s up Mikey! I walked in having no knowledge of computers and esp hacking. That’s not really my kind of thing, but I figured the paranoia element would work in my favor. Ummm. . . guess not. This was a snooze-fest I’m afraid.

  5. A complete and total BLAH. The action is pretty great but not great enough to sit through the other boring crap. It lacked a spark for me even after first seeing the trailer. I should’ve trusted that first instinct.

    • I know! I’m with you there as well, I wasn’t overly impressed by trailers. Debated forever on whether I should see this or sit it out. Totally should have gone with my gut instinct, as this film almost put me to sleep. I consider it an achievement that I didn’t! Hahah. This, despite yes a few excellently choreographed and well-shot action scenes and a good sense of setting. I also dug the paranoia element, but this story just couldn’t be less dramatically inept.

Comments are closed.