“Blackhat,” a dim-witted, dullard of a thriller about hacking and terrorism for profit has one saving grace: timeliness. But, of course, that’s the one thing that was beyond the filmmakers’ control. Being current only gets you so far when the script is techno-babble nonsense and the acting is as wooden as a forest.
The title refers to the term used by the cyber-sophisticated cool kids for a person who uses their hacking powers for evil. Enter Nicholas Hathaway (a woefully miscast Chris Hemsworth, whom you know him better as Thor), who was one of these guys and received a long prison term for it – though he insists he was ripping off banks, not the average bank customer.
Now, in the wake of a hack attack on a Chinese nuclear plant and the manipulation of the New York Stock Exchange, the American government needs someone of Nicholas’ talents to help track down the global baddie behind it all. It just so happens that his old college buddy Chen (Leehom Wang) is investigating from the Chinese side and convinces the U.S. authorities – primarily agent Carol Barrett (Viola Davis in a “what am I doing here?” performance) – to let him team with his friend.
It just so happens that Chen’s sister, Lien (a stiff Wei Tang, “Lust Caution”) is conveniently along for this ride so that Nick can have a love interest. Almost immediately, she emotionally hacks into Nick’s heart – even though there’s absolutely no chemistry between them whatsoever.
Not helping matters is Hemsworth, a stone carving of an actor who makes for a decent Thor but is far less convincing as a flesh-and-blood human.
It wouldn’t be so bad if the film’s predictability were punctuated by some off-the-charts, head-slamming, face-punching, leg-snapping action. Yeah, not so much.
Not even the hand of director Michael Mann – who oversaw “Heat,” “The Insider” and “Miami Vice” – can save “Blackhat,” even though there are some typical moody Mann touches. The climax at an Indonesian festival has at least the potential for arresting visuals.
Yet even that comes up short, and it’s all far too little, far too late, reminding viewers that if they want ripped-from-the-headlines topicality, they’re better off just turning on cable news. It may not be any more informative, but at least it might be more entertaining.
Rated: R for violence, strong language
Starring: Chris Hemsworth
Directed by: Michael Mann