Film review: Blackhat - Chinese stars hold their own, but this thriller's a stinker

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 13 June, 2015, 6:45pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 13 June, 2015, 6:45pm

A great example of style far outweighing substance, Michael Mann's latest journey into the realm of international intrigue has a number of selling points out our way - none of which, however, can cover up the fact that it's a stinker.

There's some degree of joy to be had in the scenes the American director shot in Hong Kong, and interest too in the way the Taiwan-based Wang Leehom and mainland actress Tang Wei pretty much hold their own among this international cast, bouncing between the various dialects as required.

And you can't help but feel for Chris Hemsworth, an actor with undoubted talent, as seen in his portrayal of motorsport maverick James Hunt in Rush (2013), and even in flashes as Thor in that steady stream of superhero blockbusters in which he is involved. The big man just gets it all wrong here, bogged down by a wooden script and opting for such a minimal emotional range it makes his character seem almost comatose.

There are some nasty folk breaking into computers and threatening the state of all that is great and good. Hemsworth plays a jailed hacker called back by an old buddy (Wang) to help solve the various riddles, and to make friendly with his sister (Tang) on the sly.

Mann relies on his undeniable skills when it comes to shoot-outs (think Heat, transported to the alleyways of Shek O) and the set-pieces are as good as this film gets, along with some stunning aerial shots over our city. He takes the action to Jakarta, too, but it'll be a committed Mann fan who's still interested by the time the action rolls onto that city's streets.

Mostly we get bogged down when exposition is called upon to try to explain what's happening in the cyberworld - scenes which usually just involve stressed-looking characters pointing at screens full of numbers and waving their arms around. They babble away about what it all means and stop the flow of the film dead in its tracks.

Still, we get to see Wang and Tang further their position as two of the region's brightest talents.

Extras: The Cyber Threat, On Location Around the World, and Creating Reality featurettes.

Blackhat Chris Hemsworth, Wang Leehom, Tang Wei Director: Michael Mann