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Blackhat (2015)
Tonight's Feature Presentation


Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Leehom Wang, Wei Tang, Viola Davis, Holt McCallany

Written By: Morgan Davis Foehl Directed By: Michael Mann

The Short Version

Michael Mann directs a cyber thriller…

…without any thrills, and a cheesily fake grip on “cyber.”

And no, it’s not any fun, either.

Chris Hemsworth is horribly miscast, and he’s the least of this flick’s problems.

If you must watch Blackhat, wait until you don’t have to pay to do so.

The Long Version

What Kind Of Cheese Is It?


No substance, bland taste, lots of holes; it’s probably not even real cheese.

Pairs Well With...


It’s flashy.  Just drink it.  Hell; drink several.  They’ll help.

“You were never in the game.”

I’ll be honest: I walked into Blackhat with very low expectations.  (After seeing the trailer – which suffers greatly from “uses too much of the third act, including the freaking climax” syndrome – it’s hard to imagine going in with anything greater.)  All things considered, it should have been impossible for me to be disappointed, no matter what happened.  After all, how can one be disappointed in something one already expects to be bad, especially when one has a tendency to enjoy bad movies?

Oh, well; there goes that theory.

The horrible miscasting of Chris Hemsworth (Thor) as a “black hat” (or, for those not trying to be pretentious, “bad guy”) hacker who’s about as “black hat” as Batman is the least of this flick’s problems, but what the heck: let’s start there anyway.  The character is sloppy mess; Hemsworth was going to lose the battle no matter how hard he tried, and the kinda-sorta-borrowed-from-Stallone accent he attempts (and often fails) to remember to use doesn’t do him any favors.  Of course, if the writer (or writers; only one first-timer is credited, but if you think he’s the only one who touched this script, I have a tower in France you might be interested in purchasing) ever met a real hacker, that knowledge didn’t make it to the final draft of the screenplay, so when our leading man completely fails to deliver his one and only sarcastic comment of the film (if you’ve ever met a hacker, you definitely see the problem with that number), it’s hard to blame him; after all, he’s not exactly getting any practice.  And hey, Hemsworth does give the buzzword bingo that represents the script’s hapless attempts at “techie” dialogue the old college try, so he succeeds in dodging any fair comparisons to the disaster that was casting Denise Richards as a nuclear scientist in The World is Not Enough. Mostly.

So, you know, good news there and all that.  I’ll even go so far as to say that I was pleasantly surprised on that score.

But then there’s the rest of the movie.  The longer I give myself to think about it, the worse it gets.

Let’s just take it as a given that the “cyber” portion of the “cyber thriller” was doomed to be awful from the start.  Topical though the premise may be, it’s not one about which Hollywood has historically had a clear understanding (despite recent events in which Hollywood itself got hacked), but usually, filmmakers have the good sense to try and inject a modicum of fun into such proceedings to make them easier to swallow for both the savvy and the blissfully unaware.  Blackhat, however, does not contain as much as one moment of fun.  (As noted before, the only line in the script that might have been funny is blown horribly.)  Everything is played with incredible seriousness (including a goofy “cyber” visual effect that someone blew a few million on that’s supposed to be a visualization of “hacking commands” being sent from one machine to another but which instead comes across as just plain embarrassing), and given that the “thrill” aspect of this “cyber thriller” is also completely absent, that is nothing short of disastrous.  There is just nothing at all entertaining for the audience to grab hold of here.  The plot is that in name only, though once the silly gods in the machine have made their mark early on, its paint-by-numbers simplicity is transparent enough to predict even for audiences who haven’t had the third act spoiled by the trailer.  (There is exactly one potential surprise in the entire movie.  One; and it changes nothing.)  The action pieces have no sparks.  (And some obvious moments that would seem to demand action – or at least tension – are missing altogether.)  The villain is boring. Even the zero-chemistry (and fully clothed) sex is a ham-handed bore.

But what about that super slick “Miami Vice” visual style that’s usually a sure-thing saving grace for Michael Mann flicks, you ask?  Sorry, folks; Mann and his cinematographer look to have been trying to combine his previous magic with some experimental stuff this time around, and the results are mixed with frequent bouts of swamp gas.  Sure, there are a few fantastic still shots to be grabbed from Blackhat, but this is a movie, not a photo album, and movies demand more than a few decent stills to make them look good.  We’re not quite in Rollerball remake territory, but it’s still disappointing enough.

And frankly… I just don’t want to think about it anymore.

Bottom line, while I can’t say that I regret paying for a ticket to see Blackhat in a theatre – possibly because I also paid for an exceptionally tasty beverage to wash down the pain as it was happening – there is absolutely no way that I can recommend that anyone else shuck out money for this disaster, either on the big screen or on the small one.  If you must see what happens when Thor tries to pretend to be a genius computer geek, please do so utilizing a streaming service that doesn’t charge you any more than you were already paying anyway for the experience.  That’s really the only way to get your money’s worth… though I do still suggest having a drink on hand.

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, January, 2015

More From The Bar! | Johnny Mnemonic | Goldeneye | Miami Vice |

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