** out of ****
Michael Mann's cyber-thriller Blackhat is a faint shadow of his great, stylish thrillers of the 1980s like Thief and Manhunter. This one is instantly forgettable.
To track down a seriously deranged cyber terrorist, the feds decide to enlist the help of a convicted American hacker, Nicholas Hathaway (Chris Hemsworth), and his Chinese partner, Chen Dawai (Leehom Wang). That is the general plot, but Mann is so coy about the details that it is difficult at times to figure out who is doing what and why.
Hemsworth does what he can in the action hero role but the character, as written, isn't very interesting. The terrific Viola Davis is wasted in an underwritten role of a federal agent, and Wei Tang, as Hathaway's love interest, serves only as window dressing.
Mann's insistence on using hand-held cameras and downgrading his photography to make it look like it was shot on video tape is annoying and takes me out of the film. Why would you purposely want to make your movie look like crap? This mostly happens in the poorly edited action scenes. The photography, at first, looks crisp and clear until the action starts, then it goes all fuzzy with bleeding colors.
The studio releasing Blackhat must have known they had a stinker on their hands, because why else would they release it in the January dumping ground where lousy films go to die?