DIRECTED BY Michael Mann
STARS Chris Hemsworth, Viola Davis
Chris Hemsworth and Tang Wei in Blackhat (Photo: Universal)
I suppose it's a matter of seasonal perspective. Released in the graveyard month of January, the stomping ground of such theater-clearers as I, Frankenstein and Movie 43, Blackhat seems comparatively as worthy of Oscar gold as something like No Country for Old Men or 12 Years a Slave. Left to its own devices, though, and it's merely a slightly above-average thriller that registers as yet another letdown from director Michael Mann.
Mann, whose films (The Last of the Mohicans, Heat) often pop off the screen with urgency and vibrancy, opts for a grainy, muted and measured approach here, a choice that will lead some filmgoers wishing their auditorium seat came equipped with a fast-forward button. Yet those who remain patient will be rewarded with a reasonably involving tale about Nick Hathaway (Chris Hemsworth), a brilliant computer hacker and convict who's released from prison to help the American and Chinese governments discover who's behind the cyber crimes that have left several people dead in their wake.
Some of Mann's technical flourishes are less impressive than usual — for starters, the peeks inside a computer look like outtakes from 1982's old-school TRON — but he still knows how to stage an action scene, more so when the parties involved are going mano-a-mano. At 135 minutes, Blackhat could stand to be trimmed, and Hemsworth isn't required to emote as much as he's asked to assume hunky poses worthy of a GQ photo spread. It's a nice treat for his lustful fans, who are doubtless ready to exchange that Christmas fruitcake for a savory slice of beefcake.