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Article by Teddy Durgin

'Blackhat' is an ill fit for audiences

Let's just address the obvious right away, shall we? Is it ridiculous that Chris Hemsworth, Thor himself, is playing Nicholas Hathaway, one of the world's top computer experts in the new movie "Blackhat?" Of course, it is! Now, are there Web hackers out there who are tall and handsome, with washboard abs and chiseled good lucks? I am sure there are. I'm sure some are quite handsome and-- Aw, come on! No, there aren't! On this, we can generalize just for once, can't we? There's not a single computer nerd alive today who looks anything like the Norse God of Lightning, the Prince of Asgard, the mightiest of the Mighty Avengers! Computer hackers don't look like Thor. They look like Arvid from "Head of the Class!" And although I am sure actor Dan Frischman was available at the time director Michael Mann was casting his new cyber thriller, clearly the studio heads prevailed here and said, "Uh, Mikey. Forget Jesse Eisenberg. Forget Tobey Maguire. We're not looking for the next Matthew Broderick. We need to go with the hunk. Oh, and whenever he's at a computer terminal, typing away, writing code, entering data ... have him shirtless. In fact, put MORE scenes of this beautiful, beautiful man at a keyboard, and let the buttons fly! THEM PECS IS HEMSWORTH THE MONEY!!!" Unfortunately, "Blackhat" has more problems than just a miscast lead. The film is awash in Mann's slick, signature visual style depicting a neon-lit world where morally conflicted yet highly skilled professionals on both sides of the law engage in a battle of wits. This time around, though, the style is meant to conceal the fact that there is just not much of a rooting interest throughout. The good guys are dull and almost completely devoid of charisma and even energy. None of them have a true personal stake in catching the bad guy. Meanwhile, the bad guys are sneering, one-note moustache twirlers who ultimately just want to get paid. There's nothing particularly great at stake in "Blackhat" either. Not enough of the human toll is shown resulting from the lead crook's cyber attacks to make us hate him - in addition to the power plant attack, he also engineers a major stock market score by driving up the price of ... oooooh, hold onto your hats ... soy futures! Then, we ultimately learn that his endgame plot is to simply corner a different commodity - one that will make you react: "Really? Is that what he wants to do? Really?!" OK, I'm just gonna give it away. Sorry for the spoiler. The bad guy wants to corner the tin market. Tin!!! Mann, almost aware that this is pretty preposterous, eventually throws his hands up and turns the film into a simple bloody revenge tale in its final act. But it's too little, too late especially when we've seen revenge as a dish better served cold in recent months by the likes of "The Equalizer" and "John Wick." Of course, this is after Hathaway has gone on the run throughout Asia, and we're asked to believe that no one can see this 6'4" Norse God laughably walking amongst the Asian populace. I say "laughably," because most of the time that Hathaway is on the run, he wears ... and I kid you not ... sunglasses. The flowing locks, the chiseled jaw, the open shirts revealing the muscular pecs ... heck, the simple fact that he is just a gigantic Fabio-like Caucasian ... nope, can't find him. He's blended in. On the positive side, the film is an ambitious travelogue with major action setpieces taking place in China, Indonesia and Malaysia. Viola Davis does the best she can with the sadly underwritten role of FBI Agent Carol Barrett, assigned to oversee the U.S. side of the manhunt and keep Hathaway and his Chinese best friend and fellow computer whiz Chen (Leehom Wang) in line. Overall, though, "Blackhat" never builds any sustained dramatic momentum. If it weren't for the credit "Directed by Michael Mann," I'd say THIS was a hack job!

"Blackhat" is rated R for violence and some language.


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