Published on January 16th, 2015 | by gareth0
Review By Ian Woodington
Thief. Heat. Collateral. Over the course of three decades, Michael Mann gave us three of the greatest American crime films ever made, Heat being the heist flick by which I measure all others. They brim with great actors giving career-best performances, intense violence that rarely oversteps the bounds of realistic plausibility, and an attention to detail that shows painstaking research and a dedication to crafting the very best that cinema can offer. Blackhat, on the other hand, is so phenomenally wide of the mark that it raises the question, just what went wrong this time out?
Though Mann’s last two features, Miami Vice and Public Enemies, weren’t up to his usual standard, they don’t come close to how near-unwatchable this contrived mess is. It looks like a Mann film and sounds like a Mann film, but unfortunately style isn’t enough to save a rudimentary script, that’s trying incessantly hard to be taken seriously, from a novice screenwriter whose only other high-profile credits are as an assistant editor on a couple of Adam Sandler comedies.
Plot-holes abound, but they aren’t nearly as distracting as the characters’ increasingly poor decision-making skills and laughably horrendous dialogue. From completely inept government agents to a female lead who is kept around for no other reason than to jump into bed with a curiously miscast Chris Hemsworth (reaffirming here that he’s still nothing more than a handsome face), we’ve seen these archetypes countless times, and my interest was lost just as quickly as the film’s rapid descent into an unintentional farce.
A standout offender has to be two-time Academy Award nominee Viola Davis. The awe-inspiring level of incompetence perpetrated by her FBI agent character, combined with the aforementioned cringe-inducing dialogue, should have been more than enough to keep any self-respecting actress of her caliber away. Too add insult to injury, the talents of Yorick van Wageningen, who proved he could play a slimy baddie along with the best of them in Fincher’s remake of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, are utterly wasted as the shadowy antagonist is instantly trivialized when his scheme is uncovered, reducing him to nothing more than a piddling Bond-esque villain.
Undeniably a tremendous misfire in the otherwise respectable career of a formerly great director, the reasons for a January release date speak for themselves. And now it should come as no surprise that Warner Bros. are pushing the Chris Hemsworth-starring In the Heart of the Sea from a March opening clear back into December under the guise of seeking awards attention, but it could just as likely be an attempt at avoiding the hit Hemsworth’s box office draw is bound to take in the wake of Blackhat’s impending failure. I live in hope that the downward spiral plaguing Michael Mann’s recent work will soon break and be remedied with a film that harks back to greatness he first showcased in Thief.
1 out of 5
As the recent electronic attacks and disruptions against Sony and others have shown, electronic security is paramount in the modern age.
In the new film “Blackhat”, Michael Mann has crafted a look into the darker side of cyberspace and the dangers that it can wield in the wrong hands.
When a nuclear station in China experiences an explosion, it is determined that an electronic attack was responsible and that the code used to bypass the security systems could lead to even worse attacks down the road.
A U.S. educated Captain in the Chinese Security division recognizes a part of the code used in the attack as he helped design it years earlier. He travels to the U.S. to work with the U.S. government to prevent further attacks despite the U.S. being fearful of a Chinese officer having access to some of the more sensitive aspects of the national cyber security secrets.
It is learned that a brilliant programmer named Nicholas Hathaway (Chris Hemsworth), was the man behind the majority of the code that was used but he has been incarcerated for years. He is given a furlough from prison to help locate those behind the attack and has negotiated a pardon for himself if he is successful in located the suspects in the attack.
When a new attack hits, the small team that has been assembled heads to Hong Kong in an attempt to stop further incursions from happening.
It is here that the film becomes a bit muddled as there is some very stiff dialogue that follows as well as some tacked on attempts at character development that do not lead much to the improvement of the film.
When the final plot is revealed it seems a bit absurd as there would be far better ways for a person with advanced computer skills to achieve this and in ways that would not cause as much intense attention from the U.S. and Chinese government.
A romantic subplot seems tacked on and lines like “ I have never seen my sister so happy” seems out of place, especially since she only has been with the person for less than two days and her facial expression rarely changes.
Some of Mann’s signature elements that made Miami Vice and “Heat” so iconic are present, from the odd camera angles and use of moody music, but sadly what we are missing is interesting characters to root for and against.
I tried to suspend my disbelief often but time and time again I saw situations where common sense or procedures would say that certain precautions or courses of action would be taken and they were not.
The film also suffered from pacing issues that when it finally reaches the end some two hours later, you feel like the ride was for naught when weighs the payoff that was given.
In the end “Blackhat” is a good concept but sadly one that is not executed well and tries to succeed passed on the presence of Hemsworth who sadly is fairly monotone and uninteresting in his characterizations of Nicholas which makes it hard to be interested in his story.
2.5 stars out of 5