Blackhat Sucks

Movie Review

The pre-screening chatter among the local press corps revolved around why Blackhat, a film directed by Michael Mann — he who'd announced himself with Thief in 1981 and kicked ass through the 90s with The Last of the Mohicans ('92), Heat ('95) and The Insider ('99) — would be dumped by Universal in mid-January, garbage time for the major studios. 

Within 15 minutes, it became clear.

Blackhat sucks, that's why. It's the most somber, existential hacker thriller ever made. And that's not all. Bizarre technical choices render the film borderline unwatchable. With due respect to Mann and whatever the hell he was trying to convey with his "deliberately erratic" sound design, serious portions of the film's dialogue are just straight-up unintelligible.

Chris Hemsworth plays this hacker guy, Nick Hathaway, who's doing time for cyber crimes at the outset. He gets tapped by the Feds to help them track down a global network of cyber criminals, criminals who must be stopped because they’re hacking into energy plants and manipulating commodities futures to disrupt the world’s metal markets!

And when I say "commodities futures," you say: zzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
Hemsworth must not have gotten much time off from his Marvel duties, because this performance is a new low for America’s sexiest man. He certainly couldn't quite triangulate a Boston accent, if indeed that's what he was shooting for. It's impossible to know for sure. He's hop-scotching the globe with a DOJ investigator (Viola Davis) a Chinese cyber crime specialist, who was also his roommate at MIT, and the roommate's sister, with whom Hathaway stumbles upon a serious romantic relationship almost instantly. No chemistry to speak of. 

The film features a few loud, brutal scenes of gun violence, Mann staples, and one or two cool visualizations of hacks in progress, but it doesn’t do much to convince you that digital terrorism requires anything more than a flash drive and a GPS system. (There is this crazy double-take moment where a flash drive is inserted into a bank computer, and the camera seems to idle on the SONY logo).

The biggest issue is that the film is, for large stretches, unpleasant to watch.  Audio "choices" notwithstanding, everything is shot in insane closeup. The score is all wrong. All the Chinese characters look dubbed — was this deliberate as well? It feels, on the whole, like everyone gave up on Blackhat midway through post-production.

Now that the Oscar nominations have been announced, go check up on the ones you've missed this weekend and give Blackhat a pass. 

About The Author

Sam Allard

Sam Allard is the Senior Writer at Scene, in which capacity he covers politics and power and writes about movies when time permits. He's a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and the NEOMFA at Cleveland State. Prior to joining Scene, he was encamped in Sarajevo, Bosnia, on an...
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