Chris Hemsworth plays an imprisoned computer hacker who been training his body and mind to look like a comic book hero. His character here also boasts some impressive skills in hand-to-hand combat. All things considered, it’s less believable than his turn as a Norse God with a mighty hammer. Hindered by Mann’s trademark “realistic” sound editing technique, the Aussie actors accent slips several times and when he does manage to sound right, the audio dips so drastically that you’ll be left scratching your head as to what he is miming badly to.
This issue applies to virtually everyone on screen. At first it appears as though Mann is deliberately aping the laughable voiceovers in 1970’s martial arts films, but sadly he isn’t. If anything, this is an homage to international spy thrillers of yore, yet these have already re-invented themselves several times over. Bourne and Bond have played their hand and for those looking for even more of a throwback there is Kingsman: The Secret Service.
Films within the “cyber-thriller”genre are often dated even before they roll into production, and Blackhat is no exception. Trying to infuse globe-trotting espionage into the mix is initially and intriguing idea. But once you realise that the story is heading to the Far East and that it will ask you to buy into the idea that a blond, 6ft 5” behemoth in the shape of Thor will have no problem going incognito in Malaysia, you know this will be an unbearably error-strewn affair.
The hacking techniques and dialogue are consistently laughable. At one point Hemsworth is concerned with potential deaths of thousands of innocent villagers, and to highlight this he also worries about the well-being of their “village dogs”. Seriously. The finale involves a disappointing fight that relies entirely on henchmen and the main villain shooting and stabbing at our hero in exactly the right places where strategically placed copies of hefty monthly magazines have been taped on. The phrase “headshot” seemingly doesn’t apply to this brand of baddie.
This is bad writing and lazy directing of the lowest order. Additionally, Blackhat raises concerns about Hemsworth as a dis-assembled leading man. He was great in Rush and in character as Thor, but he had help from others in those roles, here as the only big name and recognisable face, there is an unhealthy distance between him and the audience.
Peak-Mann is achieved in a bombastic shoot-out that belongs in a better, more exciting movie. Famed for his gunplay on screen, the director desperately attempts to beat his own work from the likes of Heat. You liked the loud gunshots there? You’re going to love the echoing sounds in a tunnel then! Even better, we get ringing impacts against metal shipping containers. It feels as if an entire section of the film has been specifically created so that Mann can get in his trademark bullet time on screen.