Michael Mann returns but not in a great way. Six years since ‘Public Enemies’ and now we have this cyber attacking thriller/mystery mess. It’s just not great by any stretch of the imagination, it feels horrendously long, the story is empty of any style and it just made me want to sleep.
A cooling pump in a Hong Kong is hacked into and is made to explode, after this a stock market soy trade thing gets hacked leading two government branches trying to find out who’s behind the attacks. Chen Dawai (Leehom Wang) has a shady tech history with a hacker called Nick Hathaway (Chris Hemsworth) who is dealt out of jail to help the case. As Hathaway, Dawai and his sister Chen Lien (Tang Wei) work together the mystery of what this hacker is planning, begin to emerge.
The story itself written by both Mann and Morgan Davis Foehl is severely devoid of any interest. Perhaps if you’re big into coding or computers than it may make more sense but for the average Joe, the constant techno babble causes a headache. Constant close ups of codes, maps or numbers don’t make the film any better as you end up going square eyed looking at series of letters and numbers that mean zilch. The screenplay is lacking in departments of intrigue, excitement and romance, though they really work hard to make that last one stick.
The pairing of Hathaway and Lien is odd. A relationship begins between them with no prior acknowledgement of their mutual attraction. There’s a brief series of shots with big sack of muscle Hathaway looking at Lien in a car but that’s literally it. One moment they’re just kissing and at it and from then on the script tries to keep making their romance something to feel for but you never do. It’s a bland and empty romantic coupling to match the bland and empty narrative.
Dialogue in general is just too much, it doesn’t clear up what’s going on and the mystery isn’t in what the hacker wants, it’s just in the run up to the final showdown, a huge sprawling running time making it seem that it’ll never arrive. I do have to give thumbs up for what are clearly unintentional but brilliant Marvel references in the writing. Viola Davis mentions dropping a big hammer and hey, Hemsworth is in this movie, probably with trusty Mjolnir a locker away. Then Hathaway breaks into NSA to get some data called Black Widow, hey hey!? It comes to something when those two points leapt out to me.
The music by Leo and Atticus Ross and Harry Gregson-Williams never sparks into dramatic tension and in fact on a couple of occasions the score seems to cut out before coming back again, which really made a blip in the scene. In running with sound issues, certain sentences, a fair number of times start off quiet and suddenly rocket into loud talk, not a positive for the sound mixing crew as it just made those scenes come across shoddily.
In lighter news, the film does look really good a lot of the time. Mann has a rep for creating moody city by night films and this isn’t much of an exception. Stuart Dryburgh on hand as cinematographer makes skylines look stunning and a healthy number of shots are well captured. The Malaysian backdrop is framed really well and is reminiscent of ‘Quantum of Solace’, lit up buildings are a running theme and try their best to give atmosphere to an iffy plot and the ending showdown at a busy parade has potential to be a stand out scene but loses an essence of style that another filmmaker may have brought to the table.
Chris Hemsworth looks like he’s coasting in this film, the character being of little challenge to anyone. It wouldn’t surprise me if he was fitting in days of shooting for this between Age of Ultron, he certainly looks beefed up as if Thor is trying the life of a smart hacker. Viola Davis is a great actress but doesn’t have much to do in this film so feels like a spare part. Tang Wei is uninteresting and doesn’t bounce off Hemsworth well at all, making her character dull and giving their romance no life whatsoever. The bad guys are just generic and don’t get any depth, serving as just doing it for the money…yawn.
A pathetic and boring end don’t help this film out and all in all, the 133 minute run time ticks away painfully. This is a stumbling vanilla sort of movie, but that’s being harsh on vanilla because at least it’s tasty, ‘Blackhat’ just isn’t whatever way you look at it.