Blackhat tells the story of Nick Hathaway, a brilliant hacker who has fallen by the wayside in his life. After serving jail-time, Hathaway is suddenly called upon to assist old friend and Chinese Government security analyst Dawai (Wang Leehom) to investigate a piece of malware which was alleged to have caused a major terrorist attack in China.

The investigation team is rounded out by Dawai’s sister, Lien Chen (Wei Tang), and US security analyst Carol Barrett (Viola Davis). Hathaway receives the ultimatum that his sentence will be concluded if he solves the crime.


Script-wise, scriptwriter Morgan Foehl fails to inject realism in his characters or story. The protagonist, Hathaway, is a computer genius, an expert negotiator and a chivalrous gentleman. Apparently, he is also invincible at hand-to-hand combat, being trained in survival, escape, evasion and cyber espionage. This mishmash of skills presents Hathaway as a brawny brainiac that many might find difficult to believe in.

The lack of believability bleeds into the story. Gunfights abound in the streets of Hong Kong with nary a policeman in sight. A bloody and deranged man stumbles through a crowd brandishing a gun, and not a single person notices or raises the alarm.

Maybe it’s due in part to a weak script saddled with weaker character arcs that many of the actors also fail to contribute anything to their characters.

We never find out more about Dawai other than the fact that he’s a Chinese security analyst with a younger sister. Singer Wang Leehom worsens his character’s ambiguity with an inflexible, one-dimensional portrayal of a quintessential uptight government official. Wang delivers his lines with little emotion, and despite his dashing good looks, never throughout the film is the audience able to actually form a connection with Wang’s character.


Even in seemingly emotional scenes, such as Dawai’s reunion with old friend Hathaway, all we see are obligatory small-talk and a gruff one-armed hug. These two could definitely learn from Schmidt and Jenko from 21 Jump Street.

And of course, there is the almost mandatory love interest between the male and female leads. Clichéd as it may seem, the relationship offers a somewhat refreshing break from the torpid gloom of the movie. Tang Wei and Chris Hemsworth’s acting adequately guides the audience through their characters’ relationship. In the beginning, they share only quick smiles and stolen glances but as they spiral into incrasing mayhem and chaos, they evidently begin to develop their feelings.


Director Michael Mann deserves credit for adding some stylistic sequences into a boring topic – computer hacking. The usual shots of computer screens with scrolling green text rear their ugly heads but Mann does his best to infuse his personal style with complex shoot outs, gripping chase scenes, and of course, endless flaming pyrotechnics..

Be it exploding cars or SWAT teams clashing with Cantonese mobsters, Blackhat has some intense action scenes on par with Mann’s other greats such as Collateral (2004) and The Last of the Mohicans (1992).


All this however, does not make up for the lack of a believable story or character depth. Blackhat is, at its best, a 134-minute grind of action sequences with a disappointing ending.

Rating: 1/5


Run Time: 133 minutes
Director: Michael Mann
Writer: Morgan Davis Foehl
Stars: Chris Hemsworth, Wang Lee Hom, Wei Tan