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Blackhat

Year: 2015
Production Co: Forward Pass/Legendary
Studio: Universal
Director: Michael Mann
Producer: Michael Mann/Thomas Tull
Writer: Morgan Davis Foehl
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Viola Davis, Wei Tang, Leehom Wang

Chris Hemsworth looks like he can shoot a gun, stunt-drive, fight off attacking goons and get the hot chick to fall straight into bed with him. One thing he does not look like is a computer hacker. For one thing, he can't keep the top three buttons of his shirts done up, which might be wonderful for any female admirers who see Blackhat, but it makes the six foot Aussie hunk even less believable as a computer nerd.

Secondly, even though he might be a more convincing man of action than he is a computer expert in Michael Mann's way overdue new thriller, he's like a character from an 80s action TV series like The Fall Guy or Automan. Even though he's supposed to be a computer hacker he can fight, shoot, drive and enter an irradiated nuclear reactor.

There's promising bright spot – the few scenes of what people are typing on keyboards are the most realistic depiction of computers in a movie in ages. But you know things aren't looking good from the get go when Mann relies on the hoary old 'propagating virus animation' trick, lights flashing in circuits while the camera zooms along cables to depict the spreading bug.

A cyber-terrorist blows up a Chinese nuclear facility, causing a radioactive exclusion zone and establishing the most shameless whoring of a movie to win international favour since Transformers: Age of Extinction.

When the Chinese authorities realise there's only one man who can stop the psycho they're after before he does more damage, the agent in charge of the case tells his American counterparts to spring Nicholas Hathaway (Hemsworth), the Hollywood version of a hacker just like Hollywood's version of high school kids are supermodels in their mid 20s. The Chinese agent also takes his implausibly hot younger sister because... you know... China doesn't have any other qualified computer engineers.

Even though he's a convicted felon who's handy only with a computer, they throw Nicholas from one dangerous situation to another. He struts from gunfight to tussle like Thor of Asgard, even getting it on with the hot chick after two meetings to give the movie ridiculously contrived emotional 'stakes'. It reminds you why Michael Mann hardly ever has female characters – he handles the love affair like Michael Bay would an adaptation of Sense and Sensibility.

The globe-trotting plot takes the lovebirds and hangers-on from LA to China to Indonesia where the villains end up as bland as their silly plan, and it all comes to a resolution where Nicholas uses skills most Navy SEALS spend their careers amassing to try and take the entire heavily-armed gang of bad guys down by himself. Remember now, he's a computer hacker who's just been let out of jail...

There's another plot contrivance about Nicholas and main squeeze Chen (Wei Tang) having to go it alone after a fairly shocking turn of events. It's one of the few truly exciting scenes in this endless chase, but it also reminds you how empty and bland the rest of the movie is.

If there's one thing to look forward to, Mann hasn't forgotten how to stage a decent gun battle. Like few other directors, he makes a gunfight seem viscerally realistic – the guns are loud and dangerous-sounding like they are in real life, the impact of bullets on bodies and the environment appropriately destructive and very scary.

It's just a shame the rest of the film isn't as exciting. A more engaging story and characters might have distracted from the frankly ridiculous conceit of the leading man being such a superhero, but the lame Blackhat just highlights it all the more.

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