Blackhat

Blackhat

2015, R, 133 min. Directed by Michael Mann. Starring Chris Hemsworth, Viola Davis, Tang Wei, Wang Leehom, William Mapother, Ritchie Coster, Holt McCallany, John Ortiz, Yorick van Wageningen.

REVIEWED By Louis Black, Fri., Jan. 16, 2015

Director Michael Mann has proven to be the oddest stylist of his generation, starting with the stunning Thief, achieving velocity with Heat, and then following those by searching for a certain kind of pastel monotone. He made a number of films that were far better than they had to be (Ali and The Last of the Mohicans), but not as great as they seemed at first promise. It’s as though Mann backs down from the challenge or sees it set at very limited goals.

Blackhat plays a surprisingly flat and ever-flatter cinema texture against the careful roll-out of an elaborate plot. Not only is the pacing deliberate, but Mann often supplies only about 80% of the information needed to understand what is going on in a scene. This is never a problem; the film’s narrative strategy is so generic that what is going on is obvious. It does make the viewer aware that most films go all the way with this kind of information, explaining the action when they don’t really need to go so far.

A nuclear power plant in China is caused to malfunction and the price of soybean futures are manipulated. Obviously, there is some corrupt computer genius at work, planning to do great evil. Only thing is, the most eloquently crafted part of this rogue program was created by a jailed computer hacker in America. The film is international in scope and ambition: A Chinese police official tackles the case (Wang), bringing along his sysadmin sister (Tang) and getting his jailed ex-college roommate (Hemsworth) released to help him.

There is something appealing about the walking-under-water pacing of this film that’s anchored by a number of fine action set-pieces. But, as usual, Mann is uninterested in character, and while enamored of setting up as complicated a plot as possible, the filmmaker seems to have lost interest by the end.

There is such a richness and cinematic ambition to Mann’s best work that it’s a shame it is often undercut by what seems a real contempt for his audience. You can’t help but think that he feels as though he tosses out enough narrative and style ideas that he has no obligation to create believable relationships or offer satisfying resolutions.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Michael Mann Films
Public Enemies
Michael Mann's film is a human-scale biopic of the gangster folk hero John Dillinger.

Kimberley Jones, July 3, 2009

Miami Vice
Perhaps vice isn't what it used to be, or maybe Crockett and Tubbs don't belong in this new time slot, but Michael Mann's movie turns out to be dreary and monochromatic.

Marc Savlov, July 28, 2006

More by Louis Black
Page Two: Row My Boat Ashore
Page Two: Row My Boat Ashore
Louis Black bids farewell in his final "Page Two" column

Sept. 8, 2017

Page Two: The Good Songs We Need to Sing Together and Loud
Page Two: The Good Songs We Need to Sing Together and Loud
Celebrating love and resistance at Terry and Jo Harvey Allen's 55th wedding anniversary

July 14, 2017

KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

Blackhat, Michael Mann, Chris Hemsworth, Viola Davis, Tang Wei, Wang Leehom, William Mapother, Ritchie Coster, Holt McCallany, John Ortiz, Yorick van Wageningen

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle