Blackhat

blackhat movie poster

As you may or may not be aware, the term “blackhat” is 1337 H4X0R speak for an operative that infiltrates a secure network in attempt to steal stuff or generally just spread alarm and discord. How apropos then, that the actual film in question is basically akin to cinematic terrorism, perpetrated by the known insurgent Michael Mann.

I can picture Mann sitting alone in his smoke-filled office at four o’clock in the morning, half-empty bottle of whiskey on his desk, racking his brain, trying to figure out what the kids are into these days. Apparently, he arrived at “computers” and presumably by extension “hacking,” but significantly less thought was afforded to whether or not those particular thematic elements are entertaining to watch. Say will you will about the virtues of real-life computer coding, but an associate of mine assures me that it’s not a terribly engaging enterprise for whatever spectators may be around.

Let me not mince words here: Blackhat is a dull, plodding, downright arduous film to sit through. Mann, once the king of the high-impact action movie, seems to be pitifully floundering these days. Gone are the days of colorful and exciting films like Heat, Collateral, and Thief, only to be replaced by this absolute slog of a film. Mann was trying to do the whole rebooted 007-franchise thing: all sleek exteriors and muted colors, offset by dazzling set pieces and engaging action sequences. But the visual style aside, the Bond series fills its world full of interesting characters and actual moments of humanity and levity—you know, like the things and actual human being might experience. Blackhat, alternatively, consists entirely of a collection of lifeless characters humorlessly grumbling their way through a miasma of unconnected motivations, betrayals, and obfuscations, strung together with a paper-thin chain of nearly unwatchable gunfights made all the more excruciating by camerawork that looks like it was done on a middle-schooler’s iPhone.

Maybe it was just the shitty writing and wholly uninspired plot, but Blackhat really drove home how inadequate an actor Chris Hemsworth actually is. Bored monotone and inexpressive grumbling seem to the order of the day, and not only for old Thor. Every single person in this fiasco seemed like they had just come round from a chemical-induced coma for the duration of the picture, from Viola Davis to Wang Leehom. Somewhere along the line, I remember having one of those little dissociative moments that you get sometimes; I was watching myself watching the movie, and I remember thinking, “I will never get these two hours of my life back.”

And I’ve seen some bad writing in my time—I’ve seen some abortively bad writing, I’ll tell you now. But the word-vomit that must have constituted the final draft of the script, written by Mann and Morgan Davis Foehl (Click, I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry), has got to be some of the absolute worst. Aside from the blatantly unlikable and senselessly hostile protagonist, the majority of the inter-character dynamics might have been written by someone who has literally never interacted with another living human being. It’s just sad, really, because I know Mann can do better than this. I just want to grab him by the lapels and shake some sense into him, preferably while shouting, “Come on, man! You’re better than this!”

I know the critique is basically just adding to the cacophony of negative press that’s surrounding the film already, but I really can’t stress enough how much of a farce this production really turned out to be. Hopefully the film won’t torpedo Mann’s reputation too much, because I genuinely believe that he’s got much greater ability than he’s exhibited here, but, it must be said, Blackhat is pretty much a write-off.

Rating: 1 out of 5

Advertisements

Netflix Movie of the Week #16: Manhunter

manhunter poster

I had originally written this piece before Halloween, but then things piled up—as they do—and I’m only getting around to sharing it now. Be that as it may, this week’s Netflix pick is very much in keeping with the theme of Halloween, and also happens to be tangentially related to one of the most recognizable horror/thriller properties around, namely The Silence of the Lambs.

Canonically preceding the events of Lambs, Manhunter follows the story of former FBI profiler Will Graham, played by William Peterson, as he is coaxed from retirement to take on one last case—that of the twisted serial killer known as “The Tooth Fairy.” Using his uncanny ability to get inside the headspace of a killer, effectively allowing him to think as they would, Graham finds himself in the company of the incarcerated Hannibal Lecktor, admirably portrayed by Brian Cox, as the pair conspire to get to the bottom of the investigation.

Though not especially successful at the box office, the film enjoyed a bit of a resurgence after its initial video release, and stands as one of my personal favorites within the Lambs mythos. Cox plays an excellent Lecktor, and brings across the subtly menacing and dangerous aura of the character in a way that I believe might make Anthony Hopkins himself proud. Director Michael Mann—a bit of a hit-and-miss filmmaker, in truth—proves that he has an excellent understanding of atmospheric pacing and tension, all while creating a visually interesting and engaging world—with plenty of signature 80s day-glow, naturally.

With a compelling dynamic between Cox and Peterson, and an exciting and well-executed “race against time” style plot, Manhunter, despite the admittedly bland title, is a fun, well-paced thriller that makes the most of its source material.

Rating: 4 out of 5