blackhat

Director: Michael Mann

Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Viola Davis, Wei Tang

Running Time: 133 minutes

Certificate: 15

Synopsis: A furloughed convict along with his American and Chinese partners hunt a high-level cybercrime network from Chicago to Los Angeles, to Hong Kong to Jakarta.

When I was at university studying media production Michael Mann was like a God to me and my production team, so much so that we even included homages to him in some of our shorts. The director of films such as HEAT, MANHUNTER and COLLATERAL knew how to make a film look good whilst telling an interesting story; we respected that. After hearing that Mann had a new movie coming out, BLACKHAT, I had to go see it for old times sake; unfortunately I’m sorry to say that I was left quite disappointed by his latest offering.

BLACKHAT was sold by the trailers as an action-fuelled, technological espionage movie; cyber terrorists are causing havoc and only imprisoned hacker Hathaway (Hemsworth) can track them down. Unfortunately the plot is exceptionally muddled, and though there are several action set-pieces, they come out of nowhere and unfold with no sense of peril. BLACKHAT starts well with multiple cyber attacks launched and Hathaway being released from prison to provide his expertise, but from then on events just seem to happen with little real explanation or cause. The team seem to flit from country to country, arriving at their new destination, doing some typing and then hopping back on a plane again. Links between destinations and links between plot developments are frustratingly tenuous.

It’s refreshing to see Chris Hemsworth tackle a non-superhero or playboy role, but Hathaway has far too many faults to capture the audiences hearts. He’s meant to be a prolific computer hacker, though he seems more at home fighting people with restaurant furniture than working up a decent line of code. Viola Davis is criminally underused as an FBI agent tasked with keeping Hathaway in line, her character is almost shoehorned in now and again as an afterthought. The most frustrating cast member though is Wei Tang’s Chen Lien. It’s fantastic that a big movie is utilising a Chinese actress in such a prominent role, however the fact that all Lien seems to do is flick her hair and sleep with Hemsworth is a bitter disappointment, especially when she also was brought onto the team to provide expert knowledge that is never given. The lack of character development for anybody leaves the audience at a complete disconnect making it hard to engage with the images on screen.

As is to be expected the images are very pretty. Michael Mann knows how to shoot a night scene, especially a busy cityscape night scene, and we get treated to lots of beautifully sumptuous vistas. Avid fans of Mann will be happy to know that he manages to work in his almost signature blue filtered scene, as well as a couple of green and red ones too.

BLACKHAT is a rather lacklustre affair that leaves one with the feeling that Mann has just phoned this one in, relying heavily on edit devices and shot choices that he has used previously. More character and plot development would have seen the film ascend to a higher plain. Stunning camera-work can’t save BLACKHAT from being a rather mediocre paint-by-numbers action thriller.

[usr=3] BLACKHAT is out in UK cinemas now.