Review: Blackhat is a Series of Fun, Dumb Tubes
Avengers/Suicide Squad crossover, go!
The weirdest thing about Blackhat isn’t that it’s set in a universe where all computer scientists look like Chris Hemsworth or Leehom Wang (not that computer scientists can’t be beefcakes, but there’s beefcake and then there’s BEEFCAKE).
The weirdest thing about Blackhat is that, despite the movie’s hilarious preoccupation with people squinting at screens or its repeated zooming-over-wire shots meant to simulate the Internet Internetting, Michael Mann set out to make a cyber-crime thriller but just made another romance. Even weirder, it actually kind of works.
If you’ve seen the trailer for Blackhat, in many ways it’s exactly what it says on the “inspired by a true story” tin: Hemsworth plays Nicholas Hathaway, a convicted hacker whose former MIT roommate (an excellent and pleasingly beefcake-y Leehom Wang) convinces the American government to grant Hathaway furlough so the two can pursue an international cyber-terrorist. Along the way, Hathaway falls for his friend’s sister (Tang Wei), which frees Mann up to really be his Michael Mann-iest.
Hemsworth and Wei Tang have incredible chemistry, which is good considering there’s not much more than token hacking in Blackhat; after several scenes establishing Head Beefcake Hathaway as a genius with a dark past, Mann settles in and just directs what he really wants: shoot-em-ups and lingering shots on Hemsworth’s flaxen beauty. If you think I’m overhyping the beef to the cake in this movie, I am not; if the MCU is catering to the female gaze, then Blackhat is obsessed with it.
Surprisingly, the movie’s focus on Hemsworth isn’t to the detriment of the other characters. I actually can’t think of the last movie I saw with such a racially diverse cast that didn’t feel the need to comment on its representation, and although Tang and Viola Davis are both underused and the movie doesn’t pass the Bechdel test (you had so many chances, Mann!), it’s still exciting to see a movie where women of color are in positions of power.
Of course, it’s a testimony to the lack of good roles for women in mainstream movies overall that Blackhat‘s representation is worth mentioning, considering it’s nowhere near perfect. Tang in particular inexplicably disappears for a good chunk of scenes, and is also put through some of the most predictable “tough girl in action movie” tropes.
Mann’s romantic aesthetic might clash comically at times with the “new battlefield” he’s attempting to depict, but if anything that misplaced earnestness makes the movie even more enjoyable (because Blackhat isn’t a movie that actually cares about hacking at all, it also avoids any unfortunate similarities to recent events). To be clear, I’m not saying that this is a good film (one scene’s dialogue literally rivals any “younglings” talk from Revenge of the Sith), just that it has value beyond its inglorious January release.
Blackhat is Last of the Mohicans set in a 71-year-old man’s idea of the Internet age, but by Mjölnir, is it ever fun.
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