Sunday, 17 May 2015

Film Review: Blackhat

From the God of Thunder to keyboard warrior; Chris Hemsworth stars as an on-the-run computer hacker in Michael Mann's globe-trotting cyber thriller Blackhat. 

The premise is fairly simple - the United States and China are both under threat from an unidentified 'blackhat' hacker (a term reserved for those with malicious intent) and, after an attack on a power plant in China and the Chicago Stock Exchange, the FBI call upon Chen Lien (Wei Tang) and convicted hacker Nick Hathaway (Hemsworth) to help track the man responsible.

Hemsworth, who is best known for playing the Mighty Thor in Marvel's string of superhero flicks, doesn't suit the role of mysterious, brooding hacker very well. I just didn't buy into his performance and couldn't get past how much he doesn't look like a talented computer hacker. Plus, his American accent is kinda shite.

Whilst I might have sunk several hours in Ubisoft's excellent open-world hacking game Watch_Dogs, I'm the furthest thing from an expert when it comes to cyberterrorism and computers as a means of warfare. It's here that Blackhat suffers, as Mann lumbers the narrative with stuffy technobabble and meaningless jargon that slows the film down and makes it any but slick, sexy and streamlined.

That being said, Mann's direction is suitably moody and atmospheric - the grimy blue/yellow colour palette and extreme close-ups of screens, keyboards and internal wiring gives Blackhat a stylish 21st Century noir vibe. Couple this with a cool score from Harry Gregson-Williams and Atticus Ross and you've got a film that is great to both look at and listen to.

The action scenes are a bit of a mixed bag - Mann's typical no holds barred style gives them a hefty punch but the editing could've been tidier and easier to follow. On the other hand, the sound effects have a real weight behind them, with gun shots, explosions, ricochets and everything in between sounding amazing.

I also really liked that the movie had an international flavour to it. In addition to the Chinese cast members, Wei Tang and Leehom Wang, Blackhat sees the characters veer from one exotic location to the next, from the United States to Hong Kong and Jakarta.

However, this creative decision impacts upon other elements - for example, many of the international cast have had their lines dubbed over again in post production, and it you tell. You can see when the words don't match with their mouth movements, and the sound editing is shoddy also. It's almost laughably amateurish at times and it really drew me out of the film as I found myself concentrating more on what their mouth was doing than what they were actually saying.

The Verdict: 4/10

On paper, Blackhat should've worked. In reality, very little of what Mann has put together feels half as exciting as it should. Hemsworth is miscast and a scattershot plot doesn't do this stylish cybernoir any favours.

Blackhat is available on DVD, Blu-ray and VOD now.


  1. Chris Hemsworth looked so bored in this role. I think he was cast here because he might be a draw for movie goers, and for a cyber crime movie there was a lot of action. I haven't seen enough Michael Mann movies, but for the ones I've seen, this was easily the worst.

    1. Yeah, autopilot all the way from Hemsworth. Such a shame too, I feel like this film had a lot of potential. Thanks for commenting :)



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