Movie review: ‘Blackhat’ |

Movie review: ‘Blackhat’

This photo provided by Universal Pictures shows, Tang Wei, left, as Chen Lien, and Chris Hemsworth, as Nicholas Hathaway in Legendary’s film, "Blackhat," from director/producer Michael Mann.
AP | Legendary Pictures



Directed by Michael Mann

Starring Chris Hemsworth, Viola Davis, Wei Tang, Leehom Wang, Ritchie Coster, Holt McCallany, Yorick van Wageningen, Wang Leehom

Rated R, Thriller, 133 minutes

Attempting to lend a sense of urgency to a malicious hacker’s cyber attack, writer-director Michael Mann opens “Blackhat” with a journey through computer innards and cyberspace. One ominous keystroke causes beams of light to flash on and off as corresponding digital gateways open, then shut. Finally, the act reaches its intended target, culminating in major destruction at a Hong Kong nuclear power plant.

On the case is Capt. Chen Dawai (Chinese heartthrob Wang Leehom), whose knowledge of cyber security and impeccable English come courtesy of his MIT education. Believing he needs a computer engineer he can trust implicitly, Dawai taps his sister Chen Lien (Tang Wei) to join him in America, where a second attack has occurred on the options market. Here the pair teams up with the FBI to track the hacker’s RAT (Remotely Activated Trojan or Remote-Access Tool) code, coincidentally written by none other than Capt. Dawai himself and by Dawai’s MIT roommate, the code’s lead author Nicholas Hathaway (Chris Hemsworth).

With Hathaway serving a 15-year sentence for committing his own cyber crime, Dawai must explain to his liaison and chaperone, FBI special agent Carol Barrett (the always reliable Viola Davis), that Hathaway’s help is essential in locating the code’s user. Barrett raises no objection, and, without even trying to find out whether it’s possible to track the hacker on her own, Barrett engineers a get-out-of-prison-free card for Hathaway, provided he facilitates the Hacker’s capture during a furlough that will find him teamed with Dawai, Dawai’s lovely sister Chen Lien, FBI agent Barrett and others.

In short order this crew is jet-setting around the globe impeded by several henchmen but particularly by ruthless machine gun-wielding Elias Kassar (Ritchie Coster). Anyone threatening the unknown hacker’s mysterious scheme is identified and subsequently hunted by Kassar and his cohorts, whose remedies consist of drive-by shootings, bombs or all-out gun battles. Several such confrontations and attacks occur, all jarring sequences that deplete the film of its intellectual aspirations, yet fail to promote it into blockbuster territory.

Hemsworth, a reliable Thor who was perfectly cast as a risk-taking race car driver in “Rush,” proves to be a liability here because he fails to infuse Hathaway with a sense that his interest runs deeper than the next roll in the hay with his friend’s sister. While this flatness partly results from a script providing little to work with, Hemsworth’s cast mates fare better. Leehom’s silky demeanor intensifies Dawai’s fear of failing to bring the perpetrator down. Viola Davis’s FBI agent tenses her every muscle as she walks the tightrope between obeying her superiors and betraying those she respects.

“Blackhat” displays a cinematic sense of style that you can’t turn away from, but, when it comes to making its characters seem real, they seem to be little more than props in a gunfight.

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