Chris Hemsworth as Nicholas Hathaway in "Blackhat" (Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures)

by Joseph Burge

A hacker turned cyber-sleuth, Nick Hathaway played by Chris Hemsworth, is contracted by the government to root out one who manipulated the stock market but “Blackhat” is unable to lead the viewer on a coherent narrative plot. A Black Hat is a person that maliciously uses computers to their advantage for little or no reason, and boy, is there no reason to see this movie.

It was bad.

“Blackhat” was produced by Forward Pass and Legendary Pictures and directed by Michael Mann. Wei Tang played Chen Lien, Viola Davis as Carol Barrett, and Leehom Wang as Chen Dawai.

Throughout the movie I was asking myself from one scene to the next “why and how did we get here?” I had to quiz myself to keep up with the nonsense they called a story.

“Blackhat” seems to be loosely based on the apprehension of Hector “Sabu” Monsegur, a hacker turned FBI informant. but this story has been around for decades, such as “Catch Me If You Can.”

“Blackhat” required constant focus but not for the same reasons like a “There Will Be Blood” or “The Silence of the Lambs,” it was convoluted.

The concept was interesting. A strike happens on the economy and was performed by Nick’s framework that he released years before—why did he make it? I don’t know either. The government needs him to find the perpetrators and will commute his 14 year sentence if he does. He then goes on an international hunt to China to find the syndicate that did it.

The sporadic insertion of computer hacker techno-jargon did not assist when these phrases were the tools or the reasons why the narrative was advancing, without exposition these terms distance the audience and makes the plot difficult to follow.

Our protagonist, Nick, was not a relatable character. We are introduced to him being extracted from his prison cell and reprimanded for altering the balances in his cellblock mates’ commissary accounts. I couldn’t tell if he was generous or a mercenary. He later reveals to Chen Lien, the future love interest, he was imprisoned for stealing from big banks, so I assume he was giving the prisoners money for a “do good” nature.

That’s the problem with “Blackhat,” nothing makes sense and everything is happenstance.

The acting was boring. Carol is an aggressive play-by-the-book agent who mellows out when she can see Nick is proficient at his craft. There is no shot of her facial expression or mention that she is impressed, leaving her to be an unlikeable character for the duration of the runtime. Carol also provides little to the story, she seems to be there only as a strong female.

Wei Tang’s character of Chen becomes distraught when her brother, Nick’s partner, dies. She gives a good performance there but I have no investment to her so there is no reason to sympathize with her grief. I barely cared about her brother but I was expected to.

Chen and Nick’s relationship escalates dramatically after a bar fight, exposing them both to the danger that waits. The hint given there might be a love interest forming is before the fight when Nick is discussing his past and she tries to console him, to ease his transition out of jail.

This was one interaction and the acting was not good enough to portray underlying sexual tension, probably because there wasn’t any. There was no need for a love story to be involved. It was forced.

Everything about this movie was flat. There was no substance to it and the only reason it didn’t get a 1/5 rating, as opposed to the 2/5 it was given, was because the acting wasn’t completely awful and the bar fight scene was well choreographed.