Skip to content Skip to left sidebar Skip to right sidebar Skip to footer

Movie Night – 'Blackhat' likely worst movie directed by Michael Mann (July 1, 2015 issue)

“Blackhat” was a dud in theaters, and it is easy to see why. It’s likely the worst movie directed by Michael Mann, whose other films include “The Insider,” “Heat,” and “Ali.” “Blackhat” is now available to rent (or not) OnDemand.
The movie opens with a cyber attack on a nuclear power plant in China, resulting in an explosion in one of the nuclear reactors. The Chinese military assigns Chen Dawai (Leehom Wang) to find the hacker and bring him to justice. Shortly thereafter a hack into the Mercantile Trade Exchange in Chicago causes soy futures to rise.
The code used in each hack is believed to be identical, though the Chinese are unable to access the code at the power plant because the computer systems were either destroyed or irradiated by nuclear energy to the point that no one can safely enter the plant.
Dawai is reluctantly given permission by his superiors to fly to the U.S. and work with the Americans to find the hacker. Dawai begins working with FBI Agent Carol Barrett (Viola Davis). After reading the code on the computer virus that attached the Mercantile Trade Exchange Dawai knows only one man can help him, Nick Hathaway (Chris Hemsworth). Hathaway is a brilliant man, a genius with a computer. He’s also serving time in a federal prison.
While in school at MIT Hathaway and Dawai were roommates. Together they created a code as a joke, a juvenile challenge. Even worse, they uploaded it to the internet. Now an anonymous cyber-criminal has modified that code and is using it to hack both Chinese and American systems. Dawai convinces the FBI that they need Hathaway to find the hacker. Hathaway agrees to help only if the remainder of his sentence is commuted.
The piece of the puzzle that eludes Hathaway isn’t the code used by the hacker, but the motive behind the attacks. Hathaway is convinced that there is a master plan behind the attacks that he can’t see. The remainder of the movie follows the team as they race to exotic locations across the globe, always one step behind their target.
The description of the movie sounds very good. At least, I thought so. Unfortunately, the execution of the vision behind the movie is very poor. The central problem at the root of the movie’s woes is poor storytelling. Sure, you can determine what’s happening in the story in a broad sense, but the story is told in a way that doesn’t demand your rapt attention. There’s very little drama or suspense. At no time do you ever think that Hathaway is truly in danger or that he may fail to save the day.
The plot of the movie is a wild, weaving mess that makes the movie too long and convoluted. After an hour I found my mind wandering and had to force myself to pay attention for the remaining hour and twenty minutes. I simply didn’t care what happened.
Another disruptive aspect of the movie was the camera work. In many spots the screen was shaking so much that it was disorienting. The filmmakers purposefully chose this way of filming action scenes to make the viewer feel like you are part of the action. The problem is that they didn’t pull it off. Rather than being immersed in the film, it was distracting.
Hemsworth’s hacker was unlike any seen before in film. Throughout the entire movie I felt like I was watching Thor as a thinly disguised computer expert. Hathaway solved his problems with fists and firearms as well as in a comfy chair in front of a computer. Hemsworth’s accent alternated between American and a hybrid of Australian and American that has never before been heard. It was unusual, to say the least.
I expected compelling storytelling, as in Michael Mann’s other films. Instead, I received barely ordered chaos that engendered only ambivalence.
Grade: D+
Rated R for violence and some language.