HTS Moderator , Reviewer
HTS Overall Score:67
Michael Mann is known for his bleak and sometimes brutal film making. Creating such hits as “Collateral”, “Heat”, “Last of the Mohicans” and the like, but his most modern creation is an exercise in futility. Based on the newest threat of Cyber terrorism (especially poignant since the Sony hack by the North Koreans), “Blackhat” is a jumbled mess of a movie that really doesn’t know where it’s going. We have characters that are a clichéd as the movie “Hackers” and a plot that just slowly oozes along, never pulling the viewer in and never creating a villain that really matters. People live, people die, and nobody really cares one iota about their fate.
A computer hacker magically takes down a Chinese nuclear reactor and nearly takes out a U.S. one as well. Realizing the catastrophic end game if the hacker does it again, the Chinese government sends over Chen Dawai (Leehom Wang), a lead agent in their cyber terrorism unit, over to the liaison with the U.S. government in an effort to track this guy down. After seeing the code, Chen realizes that it was based off of work that he and his college roommate, Nick Hathaway (Chris Hemsworth) did back in college. The only problem is that Nick is serving 13 years in prison for hacking crimes. Wheeling and dealing with the government, Chen gets Nick onto his unit and they start tracking down who’s behind the mess.
It soon becomes clear that whoever is behind this attack is well stocked and well resourced. Every time they come closer to finding out his identity, another roadblock pops up. Commando teams track the unit and start to pick them off one by one. Going down and dirty, Nick and Chen’s sister, Lien (Wei Tang), go underground in an effort to flush this guy out. Hunted by both the U.S. government and the hacker, the pair have to find out his plan and stop it before the rest of the world pays for it.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=45050[/img]Michael Mann starts out strong, with a great beginning, using some very in your face 90’s style images of a circuit board and its function in the takedown of the reactor. Then just loses steam as the film goes on. By the 55 minute mark I was wondering why the critics had panned the film so much. The pace was decently brisk for a Mann film and we had a nice blend of cyber warfare meets Chernobyl playing out. Then I realized that we weren’t even half way into the film and started to understand. Every minute past that point gets slower and slower, dragging along till finally most people would have been browsing on their phone to see the scores of last night’s game rather than be on their edge of their seats with anticipation. The big reveal of who the villain is and what his motivations are really inspire no sense of excitement. It’s more a “who cares” moment. Even how the conflict is resolved just feels as if they stopped the movie about 15 minutes before the end and said “ok, we’re done. We’ll finish this sometime tomorrow” and just never did.
“Blackhat” isn’t a bad movie, but rather a soulless one, devoid of passion and inspiration, about as cold and calculating as the machines that Nick and the villain use to hunt each other down. Michael Mann’s telltale digital filming style is very evident, and his camera work hasn’t lost its touch, but the story is written so blandly that you can’t help but be bored. It doesn’t help that Chris Hemsworth was BADLY miscast for the role of Nick. He feels like he should be in a frat house drinking it up, or smashing someone with Thor’s hammer rather than spouting out Linux command prompts and explaining to the audience just what each hacking tool was so they could follow along. Same goes for the romance between Lien and Nick. It feels like it was meant for another movie, and then shoehorned in at the last moment. Due to the massive disconnects between characters and plot, you have a very difficult time actually feeling any sense of emotion for them, which leaves you caring very little if any of them actually live or die, or even if they complete their mission. The actors are directed in a very stiff and emotionless manner, which was probably Mann trying to imitate the coldness of the government agency in question, but it just feels awkward and phoned in.
Rated R for violence and some language
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=45058[/img]The 2.40:1 AVC encoded disc is home to Mann’s very famous digital film making style. It looks very good, but due to the unique texture and shooting style, it never fully rises to demo material. Mann LOVES to shoot on digital cameras, and while that is much more commonplace than it was a decade ago, the unique look that he goes for is rather different. Much of the picture looks like normal video, but when the action starts up (such as the gunfight amidst the shipping containers, or the fist fight in the Korean restaurant) the image looks like it has that soap opera effect. Its slick and glossy, but the colors give the film a rather flat and desaturated look to it. Detail is solid, but some of the dark shots are plagued with digital noise (a common issue in the way Mann shoots) and I noticed a little color banding near the end. Black levels are good, but show some grey looking blacks every once in a while. Other than that, the encode by Universal looks excellent, just held back by the unique shooting style that Mann loves to employ.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=45066[/img]The 5.1 DTS-HD MA track does a great job with the soundstage. It shows awesome channel separation and the dynamic range is excellent. Gunfights pack a decent wallop, and even sound like ACTUAL gun pops rather than cannon shots that most movies make guns sound like. The surrounds are active with plenty of ambient noises to fill out the back end and LFE is tight and punch. Deep waves of bass hit you in the chest and gives a lot of weight to the explosions and fisticuffs that happen during the film. My only complaint is with the wildly erratic dialog. Vocals seem to fade in and out, sometimes being perfectly clear and other times being muffled or sounding as if they turned away from the microphone. It’s a puzzling recording effect and one that made it sometimes rather difficult to hear what was being said.
• Creating reality
• The cyber threat
• On Location Around the World
I really like most of Mann’s work. Sure he’s had a misfire here and there like “Miami Vice”, but he’s given much more to the film community than he’s ever failed at. This time he stumbled and fell down on his bum, as “Blackhat” feels like a good idea, but one hampered by lack of knowledge of the cyber universe by a man who deals better with the seedy underbelly of the old criminal world, rather than the new. Universal’s tech specs are great on the video, and the spotty audio track by Mann leaves the audio only satisfactory, giving me no reason to recommend this any higher than a rental.
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Leehom Wang, Wei Tang
Directed by: Michael Mann
Written by: Morgan Davis Foehl
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, Spanish, French DTS 5.1
Runtime: 134 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: May 12th 2015
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