Film Review: Blackhat

by Chad Liffmann on January 16, 2015

Blackhat is a real hack job.

Hacker Hemsworth looking as confused about 'Blackhat' as we are.

Hacker Hemsworth looking as confused about ‘Blackhat’ as we are.

Blackhat is a film about a good guy hacker team trying to stop an elusive bad guy hacker.   It had a lot going for it, considering it’s directed by Michael Mann (Collateral, Heat), stars ultra-manly Chris Hemsworth (Thor), and as we can all attest to, its cybercrime theme is very relevant.  So why is Blackhat such a bad movie?  It’s bad because it’s messy, miscast, and poorly put together.  Not Michael Mann’s trademark digital lensing nor Hemsworth’s chiseled abs can save Blackhat from plodding through grating dialogue, an unrealistic plot and a pointless romantic subplot.  Aside from a solid supporting job from Viola Davis and some beautiful night shots of cities around the world, Blackhat basically fails on all fronts.

One can almost forgive the casting of a gigantic, gorgeous, muscle-man actor like Chris Hemsworth in the role of Nicholas Hathaway, a genius security systems hacker, because he rarely does any hacking in the film.  Aside from one or two instances of sitting at a computer pressing buttons and forcing audiences to hear the nauseating bleeping sounds of scrolling code (you know, the kind of sounds that NEVER occur in real life), Hathaway mostly kicks the crap out of people.  There was another film where a brute took on an army of hackers — Live Free or Die Hard.  But unlike that film, this one tries to convince us viewers that all the hacker characters are what real hackers are like.  I can’t say for sure that I’ve ever met a computer hacker in real life, but if my 7+ years in the tech industry has taught me anything, it’s that computer geniuses don’t look or act like the Nicholas Hathaway character.  I won’t go into too much detail about his two hacker associates, because one is nearly useless and the other, Wei Tang (Lust, Caution) is totally useless, serving only as a romantic interest for Hathaway (yet another shameful role Hollywood has provided for a talented female actress).  Oh, and the sound volume in Blackhat goes up and down randomly and the dialogue is occasionally out of sync in the subtitled scenes.

It has also been publicized that film composer Harry Gregson-Williams, credited atop the contributing composers for Blackhat, has openly stated that he didn’t recognize any of his music in the film and that he has unfortunately joined “the long list of composers who have had their scores either sliced or diced mercilessly or ignored completely by Michael Mann.”  Yikes.  Perhaps Blackhat was an even worse hack job than I originally thought, since I was also disappointed in the melodramatic score featured in the film.  The most logical thing I can surmise is that Michael Mann, a self-proclaimed authority in the world of cybercrime and hacking 1) really wanted to make a movie about a hacker 2) really wanted to make a movie with Chris Hemsworth, and 3) really wanted to shoot some scenes in Hong Kong and Jakarta.  Those wants, I assume, have resulted in this, Blackhat.  I look forward to a more cohesive film idea and production from Mann in the future.

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Blackhat opens in theaters today, January 16th.

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