Directed by thriller alumni Micheal Mann, known for the films Heat and Collateral, Blackhat stars Chris Hemsworth as resident criminal Nick Hathaway, locked up for fancying himself Robin Hood and “liberating” US banks of millions of dollars. Nick is freed from prison to aid the FBI in catching some lunatic madman of ambiguous ethnicity with an afro who gets his rocks off blowing up nuclear power plants.
He is aided by former college roommate Captain Chen Dawai (Leehom Wang) of the Chinese military, and the latter’s sister, Chen Lien as played by Tang Wei. They proceed to travel across the globe with their FBI handlers on a merry adventure that surprisingly, for a major motion picture, featured hacking accurately. That sadly appears to be the only thing it managed to do right.
Firstly, I want to call Michael Mann and ask him in what world he thought casting Thor as a hacker made any manner of sense. It was an absolute credit to Hemsworth and his acting ability that he was somehow able to pull off the role, except for when he is also, inexplicably, a master of hand-to-hand combat and trained to perfection in the use of firearms. Note that this man has been in prison for a great deal of his life and that he was a dropout from MIT, not particularly known for turning out athletes, and this character’s back-story begins to strain on believability.As for the other leads, Leehom Wang gives a poor performance in the movie, as the only role of his character is to spring Hathaway from jail using his connections in order to kick start the plot of the movie. It’s not nearly as bad as Tang Wei’s portrayal of Chen Lien, however, who never actually does anything except orbit around Nick as his love interest. At least Nick Hathaway is an engaging character, which is more than can be said for anyone else in this movie.
In addition, during the first half-hour of Blackhat, each cyber-attack is paired with a cheesy, slow as molasses CGI depiction of the signals of the hack moving through the computer. This only appears for the first two attacks in the film and never shows up again, presumably because it was thought that it would get annoying for the audience if used again. Mr. Mann therefore clearly didn’t understand that this felt tired and overplayed before it even appeared on the screen.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is what I like to call a Big Lipped Alligator Moment. It’s something completely ridiculous with no bearing on the plot, which spontaneously bursts into the movie and then pops right back out. It leaves without any acknowledgement of its presence, and a sheer lack of consistency with the rest of the film. It’s like those Geico commercials where they mention their car insurance, and then cut away to something completely unrelated to their car insurance. Simply put, it makes absolutely no sense.
Moving on, the soundtrack was alright. Shockingly, it was mainly composed of synth beats, which seems like an absolute risk to take when making a movie about computers. It sounds like what the kids these days listen to in a club, and by listen to I mean have pounded into their ears until the sonic waves rupture their internal organs, although they can’t feel their pain because the sonic vibrations are just that strong. Joking aside, the music did fit alright with the movie and it while it felt bland, that’s completely okay, because “bland” reflects Blackhat perfectly.
And since Blackhat received such a lackluster score, it’s only fitting that the score receive lackluster treatment. Whoever mixed the sound for this movie needs to be retrained, because for about half the film I couldn’t hear the soft-spoken dialogue over the music and I was simply content to fall asleep rather than attempt to follow the disjointed chaos. On the other hand, whenever two or more characters were speaking Chinese, their dialogue was subtitled. Since you could simply read their lines on the screen during these moments, this film was easier to understand when it’s characters were speaking a different language than the main language of the picture.
Usually, I would thank (or in this case, viciously condemn) the composers, Harry Gregson-Williams and Atticus Ross, except according to the former, none of their music was actually used for the film. Frankly, it’s not clear whether they were actually hired so they could have none of their work reach the final film, or whether Mr. Gregson-Williams is trying to divest his name from this box-office bomb.
It is just a flat out bad movie, and you shouldn’t watch it. Hitting yourself in the face with a hammer is a more enjoyable experience.