Here comes the Big Reveal in “Blackhat,” the moment when Michael Mann lets the audience in on the devious secret scheme the movie’s super-hacker villain has cooked up to bring our computer-connected world to its knees.
This guy has caused a meltdown at a Chinese nuke plant and bollixed up the soy futures market. And that’s just for starters. What unimaginably fiendish deviltry has the picture’s ever-so-complicated globe-hopping plotting been leading up to?
Michael Mann does not do funny. At least, not intentionally. Yet there it was at the big moment: derisive barks of disbelief from the audience at the preview screening of “Blackhat” earlier this week.
I won’t go all spoiler on you, but suffice it to say that Mann’s notion of world-shaking wickedness here doesn’t even twitch the needle on the Big Time Villainy Meter. All that was leading up to this?
Later, when the picture’s main character, a hero hacker played by Chris Hemsworth, prepares to battle a gang of gun-toting bad guys by wrapping himself in magazines — no kidding! — and concealing a lethal screwdriver on his person, there it came again: the sound of hoots and snickers.
Can you say “misfire”? Can you say “dull”?
The picture devotes much of its running time to scene after scene of Hemsworth, an unchanging pensive expression cemented to his face, and co-stars gazing at computer screens clogged with lines of code. But at least he looks good doing it, with his shirt opened sexily to his sternum. The guy shows more cleavage than his female co-star, Chinese actress Tang Wei. And that’s when he’s not doffing his shirt entirely. Which he does frequently. He’s a stud, see. No nerd he.
Hardened in prison, where he’s done time for cybercrime, he’s sprung by the FBI to help the Chinese try to track down whomever it is that melted down their reactor. And thus is the picture tailored for the burgeoning Chinese movie market.
Hemsworth is brought into the case because he’s a good buddy of the top dog in the Chinese military’s cyberwarfare division (Wang Leehom). They were classmates at MIT.
Tang Wei’s character and Wang Leehom’s are brother and sister. She’s the picture’s romantic interest. The problem is there is zero fizz between her and Hemsworth. You can’t even say they’re like two ships passing in the night because these particular ships don’t even seem to be sailing in the same ocean.
Mann, the maker of such excellent thrillers as “Thief” and “Heat,” just seems to be coasting here. Even the gun battles, a specialty of Mann’s (see “Heat,” please), seem rote — and at the end, ridiculous, when Mann stages a shootout in the midst of a massive Indonesian festival seemingly for no other reason than to show off the colorful costumes of the fleeing, screaming extras.