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Stars: Chris Hemsworth, Tang Wei, Viola Davis, Ritchie Coster, Holt McCallany, John Ortiz, Yorick van Wageningen, Wang Leehom

Director: Michael Mann

I could take the critics’ easy way out and simply slaver over this irritating and undernourished thriller because the director is an auteur.

In truth, though, the fact that the director behind this redundant offering is Michael Mann who made the crime classic Heat makes sitting through Blackhat even more depressing. It’s professionally made, of course. One would expect no less from a major moviemaker. But that said, it’s hard to recommend sitting through Blackhat without either (a) a fast-forward button or (b) a sleeping tablet or, preferably, both.

First-time screenwriter Morgan Davis Foehl's lumbering screenplay allows Mann to stage competent but not enthralling action to punctuate the nerdy tedium of a computer-driven storyline that Mann rewards (presumably hoping to engage non-nerdy cinemagoers) by staging efficient but hardly riveting action sequences. Even location shooting and action in Far East locations failed to convince me that my watch (or time itself) has stopped during the preview.

Ironically, even the considerable tsunami of publicity created by the hacking of Sony Studios’ computers fails to add impact to a movie driven by a hack screenplay catalysed by the hacking of a nuclear power plant in Hong Kong and infected by malware known (true creative genius on display here!) as Remote Access Tool aka RAT. There appears to be no motive for the breach. Until, that is, the Mercantile Trade Exchange in Chicago is hacked with dire results.

And what would have happened if jailed computer genius Chris Hemsworth hadn’t been freed to save the world? Apart from his by-numbers-romance with his friend’s sister Tang Wei, I assume Mankind would have been murdered by malware and the film would have mercifully ended a lot sooner.

Hemsworth and his fellow actors, including Viola Davis as Hemsworth’s FBI overseer, do what they can to make the confusing/undernourished/sleep-inducing story interesting. That they basically fail is mostly down to Mann and Foehl.

Personally, I'd have given a great deal for an erase button early on. Action, OK. Storyline? Malware at work?

Alan Frank

USA 2015. UK Distributor: Universal. Colour.
132 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 2, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 25 Feb 2015