January: the wasteland for films.
For our first example, I give you Michael Mann’s Blackhat starring Chris Hemsworth as elite hacker, Nicholas Hathaway. When a cyber-criminal begins taking down banking networks in both America and China, the two countries band together to find and capture the guy. They quickly seek the help of furloughed convict Hathaway as he and the other agents follow the trail from Chicago, Los Angeles, Hong Kong and Jakarta.
Mann is a terrific filmmaker but he’s missed the mark here. The overly long film lacks any sort of substance or subtlety. Let’s start with the casting of Hemsworth, who I usually think is very good. He was great in Ron Howard’s Rush and is a perfect Thor but he was just miscast here. I know some hackers. They’re pale, portly and really out of shape. Hemsworth is the complete opposite of that. But, let’s throw that out of the equation because in the film, they address that by saying that when he was in prison he kept himself in shape in case. He had to protect himself in case of he had to fight. Ok, fine. But what hacker can fight like an action star? Hemsworth’s Hathaway beats the hell out of the bad guys without a second thought. And he holds a gun like he’s been doing it for years.
Also, the final “a-ha” moment, the point where Hathaway finally figures out what the criminals are really up to is way too easy.
And why do we need a romance shoved into the story? Much screen time is taken showing Hemsworth and his on-screen love interest, Chen Lien (Wei Tang), in various stages of undress. We get it; they’re hot for each other. Let’s get on with it because these scenes just grind the story to a halt.
There’s a scene where Hemsworth is walking in a crowded area, filled with people at a festival. He’s got a gun yet no one is reacting to him. The gun is in plain sight but people are walking past not even noticing. Hey, I know this is the movies but let’s bring a bit of realism here. If I’m walking in a crowded area and I see a guy walking with the gun, I’m getting the hell outta dodge.
The only true engaging moments in the film come courtesy of Viola Davis and Holt McCallany as a pair of agents tasked with keeping a watchful on Hathaway. Those two bring all the tension (and even a bit of levity) that most of Mann’s movies usually have.
It was nice to see Broadway veterans Danny Bernstein and Christian Borle is small roles, with Borle providing some much needed tension to his scenes.
Mann is off his game but even Michael Jordan missed a few baskets from time to time.