Film review: Blackhat - Hollywood comes to Hong Kong, and guess who plays second fiddle

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 January, 2015, 1:23pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 24 January, 2015, 10:44pm


Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Wang Leehom, Tang Wei, Viola Davis

Director: Michael Mann

Category: IIB (English, Putonghua, Cantonese and Bahasa Indonesia)

Star rating: 2/5


It has scenes that make good use of locations in places such as Yau Ma Tei and Shek O, and accords prominent screen time to Wang Leehom and Tang Wei, but there’s still no mistaking the fact Michael Mann’s Blackhat is a Hollywood blockbuster at heart.

For one thing, hunky blond Chris Hemsworth is the indisputable star of the show. His character, Nicholas Hathaway, is a genius “blackhat” hacker (the kind of computer coder who hacks for illegal gain and goes to places he shouldn't) who's enlisted by a joint Chinese-American team to help hunt down the mysterious villain behind a near meltdown at the Chai Wan Nuclear Power Plant and a hacking of Chicago’s Mercantile Exchange which sends soy futures soaring.

Convicted for computer crimes, Hathaway is sprung out of prison at the request of Chen Dawai (Wang Leehom), his former roommate and best friend at MIT who’s captain of a Chinese military cyberwarfare unit. Chen is working  with FBI agent Carol Barrett (Viola Davis) to foil the bad guy whose worst, they fear, is yet to come. Also along for the ride is Chen’s network engineer younger sister Lien (Tang Wei) – and it’s pretty much inevitable, given this set-up, that she and Hathaway are going to end up being sleeping together as well as working together.  

Director Mann has stated that the idea for exploring the cybercrime themes found in Blackhat first came to him back in 2011. Given this production’s lengthy gestation period, it should be fair to expect a more imaginative and better conceived work than what has ensued.

Also, given that the film takes place in Asia more than the US, it's reasonable to expect that the Asian members of the investigative team would be better utilised than they are in scenes that take place in their home continent. As it stands, though, the scenes shot in Hong Kong, Malaysia and Jakarta look good but the likes of Wang are reduced once again to playing second bananas – or, in the case of Tang, remembered mostly as just the main man’s love interest.   

Blackhat is in cinemas now