Director: Michael Mann
Genre: Thriller, Crime
A multinational manhunt for a computer hacker sounds like the perfect fit for a 2010s Michael Mann release. Timely and inventive, BLACKHAT promises a concept that ultimately plays out like SILENCE OF THE LAMBS meets ZERO DARK THIRTY. A narrative which necessitates a hacker taking down another hacker, the film toys with the concept of mind-games, especially delving into how only criminals understand how other criminals think. What Mann adds to his narrative is that his film’s Hannibal Lecter is a sexy, hulking stud who fires his pistol better than any hired gun in the film. That point is precisely where BLACKHAT loses it’s audience.
There’s nothing wrong with making a film’s protagonist sympathetic (in most cases it’s recommended), and Mann directs his actors confidently on screen, but there is a limitation to suspension of disbelief, and that line is unequivocally crossed once the viewers are supposed to buy Chris Hemsworth as a hacker. Mann’s protagonist simply feels too buff, too well versed with handling weaponry, and too charming to all the while be a notorious computer hacker as well. These are two obvious extremes that never manage to mesh.
This man’s probably never even seen a Mtn. Dew
Having said that, this leads one to wonder why BLACKHAT wasn’t written as a buddy film. Replacing the tedious romantic subplot with a “hacker befriends cop” narrative would have simply been more believable in the film’s action scenes, as well as narratively original. However, all of the character writing flaws aside, BLACKHAT still provides a gripping manhunt that logically leads characters across the globe in what could best be described as an epic for the digital age.
Mann, as always, has an incredible finesse when directing action, providing a sense of kinetic energy that is often missing in modern action. Set pieces feel both picaresque and grizzly. The use of Steadicam footage at first feels like a lazy approach to the action, but Mann understands how to block a scene and pick a venue in a way that feels exciting. Unfortunately, the film’s climax feels too easy, leaving viewers wanting more.
For Mann fans, BLACKHAT provides a lot of his signature momentum. The film is fast, the characters cool, and the set pieces grand, but the film suffers greatly from an underdeveloped screenplay and weak character writing. Making hacking cool is difficult, perhaps impossible, but Mann’s biggest mistake is that he tried to alter the verisimilitude of hackers. The film would have felt significantly more fresh had Mann taken the risk of making a geeky protagonist the hero of a global hacking investigation.
This review originally appeared here.
Verdict: Do Not Recommend