The quickest way to determine how you will feel about Blackhat is to take the following pop quiz: in ten seconds, without the aid of Google or IMDb, name as many Michael Mann films as you can.
If you rattled off four or more titles, you are a fan, and you will like his latest just fine, even if you rate it a tad below what you consider his best work. If you said, “Well, there’s Heat and . . . ” you may just end up comparing Blackhat to more generic action fare and like it all the more. You may even think my three stars a bit stingy. If your reply was some variant on “I just like movies, I don’t remember or care who directs them,” then you will probably think this one is slow-moving and hard to follow at times.
The script feels like something that could easily have been a Bond or Bourne movie treated to a character name search-and-replace. Nicholas Hathaway (Chris Hemsworth) is a convicted hacker who is furloughed after a cyber-terrorist causes the meltdown of a nuclear power plant in China and a near-miss at another target in the United States. A Chinese computer expert (Leehom Wang) is sent to partner with an American FBI agent (Viola Davis), and he convinces her that they need the help of Hathaway, who happens to be his former college roommate.
The middle act is fairly conventional storytelling. Characters dribble out small bits of exposition while looking at computer screens in order to explain each step towards the inevitable confrontation between our guy and the diabolical mastermind. Computers have become the black boxes of movie scripts. Nobody except the hackers really knows how they work, so they can be used to explain just about anything. Get a good-looking actor to ...1
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