The biggest shame about Blackhat is that the potential is there; Chris Hemsworth, Viola Davis, Leehom Wang (from Ang Lee’s Lust/Caution) and Wei Tang (also of Lust/Caution) play out a cyber-crimes action thriller set across the USA, Hong Kong and Indonesia. Plus Michael Mann at the helm – Heat! I mean, Heat is one of the best crime thrillers to have ever come out of Hollywood and yet here we are 20 years later and Blackhat comes along.
The biggest problem (of which there are many) is that this film is just so boring, it’s excruciatingly dull. Clocking in at just over two hours, Blackhat spends the majority of its time sitting in front of a computer screen whilst dramatic action music plays in the background. Hemsworth’s Nick looks pissed off and moody, whilst trying to keep the attention of Tang’s character and tracking down a cybercrime syndicate. It’s like the writer watched an episode of 24 and wondered what it would be like without any action or interesting characters.
Nick Hathaway is in prison but when a power plant in China blows up, Hathaway is freed on the basis that he helps with the investigation run by Viola Davis’ (so very underused) Carol alongside his college techie partner, Dawai (Wang). When the stock exchange prices suddenly increase for no reason whatsoever on the price of soy, the team track down a code (otherwise known as a RAT), which is part of malware that is causing these attacks. The twist is that the original code was written by Hathaway and Dawai when they were students. Only they are going to be able to track down the terrorists that have manipulated their code and try to figure out what is going on. Hathaway soon gets caught in a political tangle between the American and Chinese and neither are sure whether to trust the other. Whilst paranoia is running high, Hathaway must find the name of this deadly hacker to ensure that he doesn’t return to prison.
Dawai’s sister, Lien (Tang) joins this group to help facilitate their search but she is quickly relegated to unimportant love interest for Hathaway and the two begin to have a relationship. Whilst no background is given to any of those in the film, the audience is meant to start to care about the safety of the characters and this affair right away. Little is known about how the code came about or what Nick and Dawai’s friendship is really like (one ended up in prison and the other ended up researching cyber crimes in the Chinese government, talk about going down different paths).
This is ultimately all that happens; for two hours, the audience are expected to sit around and admire this group of tough looking guys bashing hard on their keyboards. Even when a threatening message starts to appear on the screen from the hacker himself, the fact that the tension dissipates when the conversation ends really sums it all up. These scenes are broken up with moments of intense (and seemingly random) action, which are really quite forgettable. They seem messy and badly structured and really aren’t helping the already poor rhythm of the film.
One of the biggest issues with the film is that the central hacker pair have no chemistry whatsoever, when Nick’s character is introduced Dawai is slowly demoted from the guy with the knowledge to the point that when his demise arrives, you don’t really care. Neither Hemsworth nor Wang look as if they are enjoying themselves and frankly why would they be? The idea to have this bulky blond American jock teamed up with the geeky looking Chinese government worker is great if the actors can play the parts, but Blackhat certainly doesn’t facilitate it in the slightest.
Uninteresting, lacking any imagination and poorly paced, Blackhat can be avoided unless you are interested in the hacking side of things, but there are surely documentaries you can watch instead…