By Jack Rico
The “1-4-0″: Michael Mann’s cybercrime film #Blackhat is a mix of global, suspenseful grit and a technical and narrative mess. Not what we’re used to from Mann.
The Gist: The Chinese and American government unite to take out a master cybercriminal, but can’t do it without the help of the only man who can probably match him hack to hack – Nicholas Hathaway (Chris Hemsworth).
What Works: Did you ever see Michael Mann‘s debut feature Thief? It’s a “one last job” movie. It stars James Caan in his best performance ever about a thief who wants to get out of the bank heist trade to start his own family life. But he’s so knee-deep in shit with the mafia, that they won’t let him go without teaching him a lesson. The film is not better than Jules Dassin’s French masterpiece Rififi, but Mann and Caan get somewhat close to it. The reason I’m even bringing this up, is because Mann is considered one of our great American directors, capable of genius (The Insider, Heat). Things went wrong here, but Mann still managed to get some things right such as having Chris Hemsworth’s magnetic appeal, giving a global authenticity to the atmosphere of the film, and using real Asian actors to play… Asians! That is something Hollywood gets wrong all the time. Remember Al Pacino in Scarface?
What Doesn’t Work: In order to feel some sympathy for actors in a film, there needs to be a rich character development. This is one of Mann’s specialties, regrettably, when one fleshes out the characters so much, the end result is a lot of dialogue and a slower, more measured pace. Mann films are not for everyone, but what he usually guarantees is a great pay-off to reward us for the tedious tempo and intricate verbose dialogue we experience. Here, Mann was out of touch with what a strong denouement consists of. Not only was the ending flat and deficient, it became implausible. Mann’s lack of assiduousness is unnerving. In the final 30 minutes we see flubs such as Mann choosing to put a white shirt on Chris Hemsworth in a highly secured airport while he’s been bleeding all night and day. Couldn’t you have chosen a dark shirt to avoid attention? Also, aren’t “blackhats” or cybercriminals usually not fit for physical war or battle? Well, not Hemsworth. He’s as lethal as Jason Bourne, James Bond and Denzel’s The Equalizer put together. “Bullshit” I announce! As Richard Donner used to say, “Verisimilitude is everything.”
Pay or Nay? Nay. Wait for this thriller on DVD. When you can forward, pause, rewind and grab that last minute call without feeling you’re missing out on something special.
Rated: R for violence and some language
Release Date: January 16, 2015
Screenplay: Morgan Davis Foehl
Director(s): Michael Mann
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Viola Davis, Wei Tang, John Ortiz
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Film Genre: Thriller