Blackhat is a tale of global cyber terrorism played out on the streets of Los Angeles, Hong Kong and Jakarta. The film stars Chris Hemsworth as Nicholas Hathaway, a hacker serving time in prison who is offered an early release in exchange for helping the FBI bring down a cyber-terrorist hell-bent on global destruction.
Chris Hemsworth has a reputation for fronting Marvel-based action roles (Thor, The Avengers) but is miscast and unconvincing as the genius hacker, though he does his best with an underwritten and incoherent role. The fault for Blackhat, however, goes well beyond its baffling casting choices. The real issue is that it is thoroughly nondescript and, at worst, painfully dull. In a post-Bourne world, its action sequences seem hollow and uninvolving, while a weak screenplay leaves its cast with little to do. Even Viola Davis’ turn as Barrett – the FBI agent who secures Hathaway’s release from prison – can’t save Blackhat from the doldrums.
With a body of work that includes Heat and Collateral, it’s hard to believe that Michael Man was the director behind this colossal mess. Although stylishly shot in parts, Blackhat fails to showcase Mann’s trademark sharp, character-driven crime drama, and largely relies on visual and narrative clichés.
In the wake of Wikileaks, the NSA Equation Group scandal, and numerous other hacking-related news items, the essence of Blackhat‘s story is somewhat timely. However, those looking for an intelligent comment on the nature of global cyber-crime, government surveillance and terrorism in general will be sorely disappointed. The film fails to debate any of these important issues and the garbled plot wears thing after a punishing 133-minute running time meaning that by the final (predictable) act, the only feeling is relief that the ordeal has rumbled to its eventual conclusion.