Blackhat (film review by Frank Ochieng).

There can be many things said about filmmaker Michael Mann’s brand of kinetic-based cinema but drowsy is not one of them. Well, Mann’s latest offering in the convoluted cyberspace thriller ‘Blackhat’ yearns to tread the dull waters of online mystery and intrigue headed up by hunky Hollywood hotshot Chris Hemsworth (aka ‘Thor’ of the Marvel Comics flicks). Unfortunately, the sluggish ‘Blackhat’ is another stiff serving of the cyber-techno crime genre that is becoming so awkwardly prevalent in modern-day synthetic actioners.

blackhatRelentlessly broad, stillborn and as annoyingly distracting as unwanted spyware ads embedded in your unprotected hard drive, ‘Blackhat’ is so wooden and unimaginative in its tepid action-packed indifference. There is nothing remotely sinister, sensationalised or probing about Mann’s stylish pseudo keyboard whodunnit where an American blondish bad boy Nicholas Hathaway (Hemsworth) is hired to take a critical ‘byte’ out of the digital undesirables looking to cause national security violations for USA and China power energy sensibilities. Sure, ‘Blackhat’ sounds like an elaborate stretch for the over-the-top premise but the surprising element is how its dramatic pulse borderlines on a hearty yawn at the conclusion of the two hour-plus dud.

Mann, known for his celebrated and excitable crime sagas such as 1995’s intensifying ‘Heat’, takes a few steps back in trying to find compelling mileage with the banal ‘Blackhat’. Mann does everything he can to spruce up the fruitless festivities with picture perfect-looking protagonists, high-caliber button-pushing shenanigans, obligatory chase scenes and online bandits crafting their scrutinizing agenda. However, much like Mann’s forgettable glossy crime caper in his toothless big screen adaptation of TV’s ‘Miami Vice’, the eye-rolling ‘Blackhat’ pounds its chest enthusiastically while never quite offering anything captivating beyond the forced frenzy.

The foundation for the charged antics behind ‘Blackhat’ revolves around a menacing hacker whose dastardly deeds online leads to the major shutdown of Chinese nuclear power plants. The result of this misguided action to cease the operation of the country’s reactors turns into an economic opportunity of riches for the computer-hacking culprits. Naturally, the Chinese and American federal authorities need to investigate the nuclear power plant meltdowns and capture the computer criminals responsible for the on-going crisis before it spirals out of control on a possible world-wide basis. So the question remains: just how can they get to the bottom of this digital-activated dilemma and put a stop to the hacking hedonists?

Rest assure that Hemsworth and his lovely co-star Wang are not running to catch the early morning sale of laptops in the convoluted computer crime thriller BLACKHAT.
Rest assure that Hemsworth and his lovely co-star Wang are not running to catch the early morning sale of laptops in the convoluted computer crime thriller BLACKHAT.

Enter charismatic convict Nicholas Hathaway who has been tapped by the U.S. government to help solve the mystery of the current emergency at large in Asia. Hathaway has been serving some serious time behind bars for his own cyber-related crimes. The feeling is that if a skilled rogue such as Hathaway can think and uncover the sordid mentality of another cyber violator then he would be an ideal source for tracking down the individual or group responsible for the cyber-induced sabotage. The deal is in effect: should Hathaway successfully bring the keyboard cretins to justice then his freedom is guaranteed from the remainder of his prison sentence. Hence, the incentive for the international thrill-seeking Hathaway to poke around in the crowded streets of China is looking very promising if not daunting. Also, it does not hurt that Hathaway develops an affiliation with his supervisory contact Chen Dawai (‘Lust’, ‘Caution’s Leehom Wang) as well as a ravishing associate Lien Chen (Wei Tang) for whom he predictably engages in a spontaneous romance among the supposedly heightened hysteria.

‘Blackhat’ is nothing but a meandering mess that wants to be inspired in its jittery suspenseful mode but conjures up a tiresome collection of rudimentary thrills manufactured in generic chase scenes, ridiculous hand-to-hand combat fight sequences, stale gunplay and Hemsworth flexing his movie muscles and flowing golden locks as if he is some blessed golden boy with energised gumption. Mann’s uneventful direction and screenwriter Morgan Davis Foehl’s choppy script does nothing whatsoever to amp up this throwaway thriller.

Yeah, some of the fanboys will buy into Hemsworth’s harried hacker as a standby badass on the run and the ladies will feel free to manhandle the cinematic Adonis in their wildest hormonal dreams. As for the rest of us…well, Hemworth will come off as a lost tasty ice cream cone looking for a place to melt within this cyber snoozer. Actually, Hemsworth looks as if he would rather be polishing surfboards at the beach as opposed to prancing around in Mann’s hollow computerised caper. As for the inclusion of Oscar-nominated Viola Davis as a strategic Department of Justice governmental overseer wasting away in the mundane mix, it is a shame that this respected actress is reduced to participating in this techno-induced tripe that wastes her on-screen presence.

Mann historically has injected his films with vibrant colors, stimulating action and an overall flashy production that demands an eye-catching aura pertaining to his percolating projects regardless of whether they are considered solid hits or misses. No doubt that ‘Blackhat’ is the latter in this particular case. It is too bad that the detestable hackers could not apply the same motionless methods they used in the movie to quiet the fictional Chinese reactors.

Blackhat (2015)

Universal Films

2 hrs.  15 mins.

Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Leehom Wang, Viola Davis, Wei Tang, John Ortiz, William Mapother and Andy On

Directed by: Michael Mann

MPAA Rating: R

Genre: Cyberspace thriller/Mystery & Suspense

Critic’s rating: * 1/2 stars (out of four stars)

(c) Frank Ochieng 2015



Frank Ochieng has contributed film reviews to SF Crowsnest off and on since 2003. He has been published in other various movie site venues throughout the years. Ochieng has been part of The Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and had written film reviews for The Boston Banner newspaper (USA) and frequently is a media/entertainment panelist on WBZ NewsRadio 1030 AM on "The Jordan Rich Show" in Boston, Massachusetts/USA.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.