“In the computer security context, a hacker is someone who seeks and exploits weaknesses in a computer system or computer network. Hackers may be motivated by a multitude of reasons, such as profit, protest, challenge or enjoyment.” If only these were the types of hackers we were going to be dealing with. Instead, we got this dull movie and some even more dull characters.
With a few clacks of the keys on a keyboard, someone can change the commands of a computer anywhere in the world and create new outcomes that deviate from original programming. Such clacks create a nuclear plant in China to malfunction, causing Chinese hacker Chen Dawai (Leehom Wang) to get involved in investigating the failure. He’s sent to the United States to investigate after the stock price of Soy skyrockets unexpectedly. He’ll be working with FBI Agent Barrett (Viola Davis) to explore their options, but the code won’t be cracked by himself alone. He’ll need the help of his sister Chen (Wei Tang) and his former roommate at MIT, who happens to be locked up.
Nick Hathaway (Chris Hemsworth) is serving 13-years for his hacking into our own government and for meddling in places that he shouldn’t have. He’s offered furlough from prison, in exchange for his help with the ongoing case. The code is instantly recognizable, as he and Chen were the ones who created it. However, this hacker has modified it and left some breadcrumbs, enabling the group to travel to China in order to find his whereabouts. However, this hacker is no amateur and ensures that finding him will prove most difficult and time-consuming. Can they reach him before the next crippling attack?
Blackhat is a huge misfire on nearly every level, corrupting what could have been a halfway decent tech-thriller. From miscasting, to rushing relationships and slowing down progress, and revealing the villains idiotic motives, Blackhat feels like some amateur filmmakers attempt to turn computer hacking into a big budget, action flick. Never have I been so disinterested in what should have been a smart film, to the point where myself and others were laughing at the absurdity which we were witnessing on-screen. Combine the never-ending runtime with the halfway developed characters and throw logic out the window, then maybe you’ll be able to enjoy a few aspects of this film. Otherwise, this is one virus you want to avoid.
This film was directed by Michael Mann, a man who’s no stranger to making big, bombastic thrillers that both excite and intrigue the audience. With such critical hits as Heat and Collateral, you would think that you would get some level of achievement from this film, but you would have thought wrong. Michael Mann has been replaced by a man who doesn’t entirely know why, or how to tell this ridiculous story. His flares of action are about the only engaging elements in this film, but even they feel completely out-of-place. Those random bursts of enjoyment are short-lived and then replaced with moronic sequences with poor dialogue.
Chris Hemsworth drops his Thor persona and puts on a cheap American accent and attempts to become your average, every-day 6’3″, muscular, God-like hacker. He’s also extremely efficient at kicking ass and killing people, which I believe was installed within him before he jumped back into the matrix. Not only is his personality so off-putting, but his believability as this world-renowned hacker is positively unbelievable. It doesn’t help that he’s given awful dialogue to recite and he’s also never directed to act like a hacker. He clacks the keys and has his bazinga moment here and there, because apparently that’s all it takes to be a master hacker… He also looks so disinterested in what he’s doing, which doesn’t make it fun for anyone.
There’s a slew of supporting, expendable characters in this film who serve their minimal purposes and are then thrown to the wayside. Leehom Wang plays Hemsworth’s hacker best-friend and other than narrating the plot, all he does is let Hemsworth do EVERYTHING. Then there’s his sister, played by Wei Tang, who’s easily the most underwritten character in this film, as she falls for and sleeps with Hemsworth’s character after ten minutes. Seriously, she just meets him and assumes he’s caring, strong, smart, and not like what others describe. Holt McCallany is a trigger-happy F.B.I. Agent, John Ortiz is a skeptical boss, and Viola Davis gets to serve up some sass.
Now, to that silly plot which revolves around acts of cyber-terrorism. Initially, the premise did sound promising, but multiple minute-long shots inside a computer get old and the villains tactics wear thin all too quickly. The villain is a more accurate representation of a hacker, but his motives for his hacking are so bizarrely specific that you can’t help but chuckle. You’d think that the big plot reveal at the end was going to be something that makes sense, but alas it was underwhelming (to say the least). Plus, it takes over two-hours to get to the little bit of meat that the film offers up, but by then it’s spoiled and the anti-climactic ending leaves a bad taste in the mouth.
Blackhat looked and sounded like something that could have been a light of hope in the month of January, the dumping grounds for crappy horror and comedy films. With all the talent attached to the project, it’s just disappointing that this is the version of the film we got. The theater I was in had a great time with this film, but for all the wrong reasons. We laughed, we cried, and we laughed some more at what we saw unfold on-screen. Yes, this film is pretty bad. The year has just begun and this is already a top contender for a worst of the year title.