Weekend Roundup + Review of Michael Mann’s Blackhat (2015)

Happy Monday everyone! It’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day and my office is closed in remembrance of Dr. King’s birthday. I was reading up about Dr. King’s history earlier today and I’m always astonished by how many inspiring comments he had made in his relatively short life. These are just some of my favorites we can all live by no matter what day it is.

Did anybody see SELMA this weekend? Well, it’s a good a time as any to see that film but I figure it’d resonate even more on MLK Day. I only went to the cinema on Friday night for Blackhat, and only got around to seeing The Guest last night. Tonight my hubby and I are going to start watching The Honourable Woman before Netflix yanked it off its streaming service at the end of the month. We’ve been wanting to check that out for ages, and Maggie Gyllenhaal winning a Golden Globe for her performance served as a perfect reminder!

Now here’s my review of Michael Mann’s latest cyber thriller:


Well, looks like I have to eat my words on this one, considering I’ve done this enthusiastic post on this movie. I was prepared for a smart cyber-thriller that would speak to our cultural anxieties sparked by the repetitive security breaches and surveillance concerns, but the movie is just a typical crime thriller in which the plot revolves around a malicious hacker (hence the title). The opening sequence depicts a CGI tracking shot going into a maze-like chase from inside one computer and out of another on the other side of the globe and resulted in a nuclear reactor explosion in China. Both US and China are desperate to find a computer whiz to help find the cyber criminal and so we’re introduced to Nicholas Hathaway (Chris Hemsworth) who’s currently serving time for computer fraud. Conveniently, his MIT roommate Chen (Wang Leehom) is now a high-ranking Chinese official and he suggests that the FBI grants him a furlough to help them out.


It all sounds oh-so-exciting but the film itself comes off as dull and un-suspenseful. The hacking jargon and those cyber intrusion CGI may look and sound cool at first, but it gets repetitive as the film progresses, but that’s not even the film’s biggest flaws. The aerial shots are frame-worthy, as one would expect from visual stylist like Mann, but it can’t cover for the clunky dialog (both in English and sometimes broken Indonesian) nor all the plot contrivances that don’t pay off at the end. I haven’t even mentioned the lame villains that’s more irritating than menacing.

I mentioned my doubts about our current ‘sexiest man alive’ Hemsworth as a hacker. Not just any hacker mind you, a computer genius who can hack into anything, including tricking NSA to get him access to their “Black Widow” super computer. (Thor & Black Widow, yes those Avengers reference did put a smile on my face). Well, no matter how authentic the hacking sequences and UNIX command line accuracies are (apparently the film got ’em right according to Wired), it’s still REALLY tough to buy Hemsworth as any sort of computer whiz. He’s not a terrible actor in the right role but he’s so out of his elements here. He also isn’t a movie star, not yet anyway. I read a comment on IMDb that says, ‘Tom Cruise is a star, Hemsworth is a mere flash light.’ Ouch! But y’know what, it made me think that if it were Cruise or someone with his charisma in the starring role, the movie could’ve been a bit more watchable.


It doesn’t help matters that we’ve got the cheesiest, most cringe-worthy tacked-on romance between him and Chen’s sister (Tang Wei) who conveniently happens to be a software expert. I remember the scorching chemistry between Colin Farrell and Gong Li in Miami Vice, but none of that is to be found here between Hemsworth and Wei. All longing glances and even a sex scene two days after they met, but absolutely zero chemistry. Zilch. I wish Mann would give more time to Leehom and Viola Davis instead, both are perhaps the only saving grace here in terms of casting. Even delivering lines like ‘You can call me Chica anytime you want,’ Davis is always entertaining to watch, if only Hollywood would give her more to do in a movie.


It’s really a shame that this film never rise above mediocrity. There are even some seriously preposterous moments, I mean, magazines used as bullet proof vest?? Ok so maybe if Thor has ribs made of steel [shrug] My hubby and I turned to each other as the credit rolls that it doesn’t feel like a Michael Mann movie. It looks as if a lesser filmmaker was imitating him as Blackhat has the look/sound/feel to it. I do appreciate the global feel of the film, being shot on location in several countries from US to China to Indonesia. But even the finale set during a Hindus’ Nyepi “Day of Silence” Celebration in Jakarta serves nothing more than an extremely elaborate set decoration, employing 3000 extras no less, that doesn’t add much to the movie.


You know I REALLY want to love Blackhat so imagine my disappointment. It’s yet another exercise of style-over-substance. Yet visually, despite some arresting ones here and there, overall it’s not as impressive as his previous work in an urban setting, i.e. Collateral. Everything else fares even worse, from casting, dialog and plot, there’s very little to recommend this even coming from a big fan of this director. Six years after the disappointing Public Enemies, this is another misfire from Michael Mann. Well, I hope we won’t have to wait as long to see him back in top form for his next film.


So what did you watch this weekend? What do you think of Blackhat?

48 thoughts on “Weekend Roundup + Review of Michael Mann’s Blackhat (2015)

  1. You make good points concerning “Blackhat” and some of the conveniences the story worked in. I still enjoyed, though. At first, I felt like you. But by the finale, I was clearly pulling for the couple. Mann always aces the technical craft involved, photographing them like few others. I thought Mann showcasing Asian actors we rarely see in prominent roles another plus. But then again, I enjoyed “Public Enemies” 😉

    We saw SELMA on Friday and absolutely loved it. I for one grew up during the 60s and heard a number of things occurring over the news channels or first-hand about the Civil Rights Movement. Later reading more in detail of the history the next decade over. So, it hit home with a lot of weight. Also made me doubly sore about Ava DuVernay and David Oyelowo Oscar snubs. In fact, I thought the ensemble cast was simply superb.

    1. Hi Michael! As you know I REALLY want to love Blackhat. Heck it’s partly set in my hometown so even on that account alone I’m already predisposed to liking it. Alas I couldn’t get past the terrible casting but also the utterly cheesy love (well more lust) story. The visuals are indeed great and of course it’s always nice to see such diversity in casting, but I was hoping for more. I think Public Enemies might still be a better film than this one.

      But yay on SELMA!! Oh I bet it resonated w/ you more as you grew up seeing the real footage. Even for me, who wasn’t taught about American History growing up, I was absolutely engrossed in the story and the depiction of the marches are powerfully moving. It’s a real shame indeed the Academy failed to recognize DuVernay’s and Oyelowo’s astounding work.

  2. I was planning to go see Blackhat but after I saw its rating on Rottentomatoes, I decided to not waste my money and time on it. I’ve seen so many bad action movies in the last few months and I don’t want to get angry at Mann like I did with Ridley Scott for Exodus. I think both of them are losing their passion to make great films, I don’t want to bring up their ages but they’re getting too old and maybe it’s time to hang it up. Richard Donner realized that after he made the awful 16 Blocks, he tried to recapture his gory days of Lethal Weapon and it didn’t work.

    I watched some movies at home, Source Code, Avatar 3D and Badlands. I’ve never seen Source Code before, somehow I missed it in theater and never got around to watch until this past weekend. I loved it and Duncan Jones is a true talent. I loved Avatar’s 3D effects but I think I hate the movie itself even more than when I saw it in theater, lol. And last night I watched Malick’s first film Badlands, haven’t seen in years and it’s still one of the best films of the 70s.

    1. Hi Ted! Well you are wise to just wait on this one. I’m not angry at Mann, more disappointed as he’s such a talented filmmaker and this could’ve been a great film of a timely & intriguing subject. I don’t know if age is a factor as he seems to still have the enthusiasm when you see him in the behind-the-scene vids of this movie. The casting of Hemsworth is a poor one too, so that didn’t help.

      Oh yeah Source Code is a good movie! I was impressed w/ Duncan Jones that I chose him to direct my sci-fi movie pitch a few years back 🙂

      1. I’m sure physically he’s still capable of doing these kind of films but what I meant was mentally; I don’t know if he has any creativity left in him. It seems, to me at least, he’s been repeating himself with the same style and storytelling. Now that Blackhat is a huge bomb, he might step back and tackle something new and hopefully redeem himself. I don’t know if he’ll able to secure another $70mil+ for his next film though.

        I think I remember your pitch with Jones as the director. I’m curious about his Worlds of Warcraft, he’s been busy with that film the last few years. Since he’s a gamer, I guess it’s his dream project.

  3. On the weekend, I saw The Other Woman (terrible), The Great Train Robbery (a must see for film buffs), and At the Circus starring the Marx Brothers (which was hilarious) and the pilot episode of Agent Carter (me like!!!)

    1. Hi Steven! I can’t even bring myself to see The Other Woman, even w/ Nikolaj Coaster Waldau in it. I saw the pilot of Agent Carter too, I like it well enough but wish it could’ve been better. I will give it a shot though as I LOVE Haley Atwell.

  4. Sigh… Hate to hear that man misses the mark here. I was hesitant especially since it got the dreaded January release date.

    I watched a couple of French New Wave films including Band of Outsiders. Also watched The Two Faces of January. OH, and I watched the Oscar-Nominated animated short film Me and My Moulton. Just posted the review for it. Had angood weekend.

    1. Hi Keith! I guess I was overly optimistic about this one despite the January release date. It might still be worth a rent though if you’re curious.

      Oh neat, I’ll check it out! I haven’t seen any of the short films up for Oscar.

  5. Aww, too bad to hear Blackhat disappointed you, at least I know to avoid this one in the theatres. Hope you had better luck with The Guest. This weekend I watched John Wick, it’s pretty good but the final fight didn’t have enough punch and that girl assassin missed the mark haha. 😀

    1. Yeah I know, esp considering how excited I was for it! Oh yeah I liked The Guest a lot, review is done and up later this week. I really enjoyed John Wick, it’s not perfect but hugely entertaining and Keanu back in top form, yeah!!

  6. Stu

    Ah, shame to hear this isn’t too good. Films about hackers can be hit and miss, don’t you think? I doubt I’ll check it out unless it’s a quiet week over here but I never saw Public Enemies so at least you’ve reminded me to watch that!

    The only film I watched over the weekend was Wild. I know you didn’t really care for it but I enjoyed it overall despite a few reservations. Off to see Whiplash tonight!

    1. Hi Stu! It’s a shame indeed as it could’ve been a captivating film, but it’s really more like a standard thriller, not really about hacking as a social commentary. Curious to hear what you think of Public Enemies.

      I’ll check out your Wild review. Yeah I’m not er, wild about that one at all, but seems like I’m in the minority as Reese got an Oscar nom :\

    1. Hi Natalie! Yeah I wish Michael Mann would be back in top form after 6 years, oh well.

      Bummer you still have to wait a few more weeks for SELMA, it’s such a powerful film!

  7. Mann is one of those directors that I never truly adored, and so I was hesitant to care much about Blackhat. I won’t be seeing this now 😛

    I still need to see Selma!

    1. Hi Drew! Well if you’re not into Mann then I probably just rent this or skip it altogether. I do like him so it’s disappointing.

      Oh yes you do need to see SELMA soon!!

  8. Yeah I think I’m gonna give it a pass, shame for Hemsworth – first Rush bombs with the Academy now this. I hope that sea movie he is in is gonna be good

    1. Hemsworth was good in RUSH (though Daniel Brühl stood out to me more), but here he just isn’t believable at all. I mean not every hacker has to look like a total skinny or overweight nerd, but Hemsworth is just too much of a hunk. I think the Heart of Sea one is more of a physical role so it should fit him better than this one.

  9. Sorry Blackhat didn’t turn out to be good. It looked kind of cool but I wait for January releases to on DVD on principle. So I haven’t seen it and probably won’t now.
    This weekend I finally caught up on all the BP noms! Finished with Selma, American Sniper, and The Theory of Everything, so now I’ve seen them all. Today’s the first day of classes so I’m scrambling to find time to review all of them plus the ones I need to revisit before January is over!

    1. Hi Melissa! It had a lot going for it but somehow it just failed to compute (pardon the pun).

      Hey good for you on seeing ALL of the Oscar nominated films! I haven’t seen Boyhood, American Sniper, and The Theory of Everything yet, not sure I’ll get to all by Oscar time. Have fun w/ school btw!

  10. Abbi

    I haven’t seen Blackhat but it sounds pretty meh. I was in Berlin for part of the weekend so I didn’t get to go to the cinema but Mr O and I binge watched The Bridge on Netflix.

      1. Abbi

        For a work conference. All I saw was the hotel and the airport though 😦 Fortunately I am back as a tourist with my husband next month.

    1. Hi Fernando! Are you a fan of Michael Mann’s work? He’s the main draw of this film for me, not Hemsworth.

      So what did you think of Into the Woods? I posted my mini review a while back. I haven’t seen Theory of Everything yet though.

      1. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Mann film. Oh wait, Collateral, but that was so long ago and I barely remember it.

        I will be posting my review soon but I was very underwhelmed by Woods.

  11. Dan Heaton

    I wouldn’t go so far as to call Blackhat a misfire. I’d say that it’s a mixed bag of greatness and messy plotting. Hemsworth isn’t great and the love story seems odd, so that doesn’t help. I was drawn in by the style right from the start as the camera dives into the digital world. I also loved the action sequences and think they’re quintessential Mann. It doesn’t totally work, and I can understand the disappointment. Still, I think there’s enough here to make it engaging while being a bit frustrating at the same time.

    1. Hello Dan! I wish I could say the same. Granted there are things I like and his visual style and the way he staged the shoot outs are pretty cool, but overall it plays like a cheesy B movie. Hemsworth just made me cringe, and the tacked-on romance feels I dunno, obligatory. It pains me to be so negative about a Michael Mann film as I generally love his work.

  12. Sad to hear it was a disappointment, but I’m still curious about it. The Fifth Estate got bad reviews, and I liked it, so who knows.

    You reminded me that I still need to see Miami Vice, which I bought on sale and never watched. I might check that out this weekend. 🙂

    1. Yeah I’m sad too! I really want Blackhat to be good. Fifth Estate was ok, not as terrible as Blackhat IMHO. Miami Vice was enjoyable as Colin Farrel is generally a better actor than Hemsworth, plus there is actually chemistry between him and Gong Li.

  13. So on MLK day instead of seeing Selma because I had a feeling other people would go that day and I hate crowded theaters, I saw Birdman. Hoping to see Selma this week, I have always been fascinated with his life, so I am interested in seeing how it turned out. Is it just me or does Michael Mann put together really fascinating trailers? I remember how excited I was to see Public Enemies and it was horrible. Last movie he made that I liked was Heat, that’s it. I think Hemsworth is yes one of the sexiest men alive, but I am coming to realize he’s just not that great as an actor or even in interviews in real life he comes across quite boring. I guess you can’t be that beautiful and have it all.

    1. Yeah that’s wise as it probably was busy on MLK day though it seems that everyone went to see American Sniper! I like Selma and it kept me engrossed, esp. David Oyelowo’s performance. In fact, it’s on my Top 10 movies of the year now.

      Yeah I think Mann knows how to cut a trailer and Blackhat looked intriguing. Alas the actual film was awful. Hemsworth is just so unbelievable as a hacker, he looked so out of place. I think you’re right he seems boring in real life too. I for one don’t find him all that sexy. I prefer the other two Chris-es in Marvel Cinematic Universe… Chris Evans & Chris Pratt 🙂

      1. Can’t wait to see it and ps.. I did not know Oyelowo was British! I saw him on the today show and was surprised when he started talking.

        Hemsworth is gorgeous to me and I would never ever deny him lol. I like them all I would take any of those Chris’. Haha

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  15. Aww, that’s disappointing. I read several negative reviews on this movie, so I opted not to see it after all. Ya know, the thing with Chris Hemsworth is that it seems like he tends to have more of a buddy chemistry on-screen than romantic. I think of him as Thor and I don’t think he had hardly an ounce of chemistry with Natalie Portmant, but everyone agreed that he and Loki were great together. Even in Rush, his primary chemistry was with his competition, and in that film, he really shined in that role. It’s too bad, because I think he’s a great actor, but like you said – in the right role.

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