Michael Mann has made some of the best crime dramas of the past two decades, including "Heat", "Manhunter" and "Thief". His latest, BLACKHAT shows moments of the old Mann magic, but has a couple damaging flaws.
Chris Hemsworth stars as Nick Hathaway, a brilliant hacker serving prison time for online theft from banks on a major scale.
When the USA and global financial markets find themselves under attack by a sophisticated online extremist faction, Hathaway is sprung from captivity to capture the elusive man behind the plan.
A nuclear reactor in China is the first target. A young, American-schooled captain named Chen takes point for the Chinese government and teams up with American intelligence for the mission.
Chen and Hathaway share a past, including a past romance between Hathaway and Chen's sister Lien.
The film's problems start with Chinese actress Wei Tang as Lien. Not since Sofia Coppola in "Godfather III" have I seen acting this poor in major film. Her co-stars do everything they can to support her, but WOW she just takes you out of the film with her deadpan line readings. I've heard more exciting dialogue delivery at the DMV.
It's a shame, as much of the rest of the supporting cast is really strong, including Viola Davis as CIA top brass, Christian Borle as a fellow agent and Leehom Wang as Chen.
Mann keeps the cameras constantly moving around our team as they chase the bad guys, bouncing all over the world from China to Chicago to Jakarta to Hong Kong and Los Angeles.
The photography and action scenes are everything you'd expect in a Mann film and Hemsworth proves he can carry a film without carrying a big hammer, just as he did last year in the little seen but powerful racing film, "Rush".
Alas, the film goes on a bit too long and Wei Tang appears in way too many scenes. They could have fixed both problems by editing out any parts with her in at and cutting the running time by 20 minutes.
There are plenty of scenes of physical chases, huge gun battles and action set pieces on a major scale to balance all the time our teams spend staring at computer screens.
There's also a strong cautionary tale running beneath the surface on the dangers of our personal information all bouncing around the cloud. When you see what some of these folks can do with information in about three seconds, it will make you cringe.
BLACKHAT is not top notch Michael Mann, but still exudes a stylish momentum that earns a B-.