Michael Mann is an old legend who has come to the point in his career where he is just making reiterations of the same themes that run through most of his prime work, with varying degrees of success.With Blackhat Michael Mann indulges and takes his love and fascination for criminals who are excellent at their work while showing due diligence to chip away at things like plot and exposition to the point where the movie starts to resemble abstract art pieces intercut with violence, rides on expensive private planes, and vast open spaces for characters to find their thoughts.
The choice to cast Chris Hemsworth as computer hacker Nick Hathaway has already been widely mocked but who else would Michael Mann cast as his avatar this time around? Hathaway is a genius hacker, lethal at hand to hand combat, good with a gun, a giving lover, and a loyal friend. I guess I’m just used to Michael Mann movies at this point that I didn’t even flinch when Hathaway started hiding bladed weapons on his person in preparation for what looks like a suicide mission. Hathaway is such a good guy that even though he went to jail for cybercrime and has a least a pretty healthy disdain for authority, when he’s told later that he has to go back to jail his first reaction is “Sure. Do the crime do the time.” His friends have to actually convince him to be a fugitive. Whattaguy. Hathaway is also the type of guy who has the top two or three buttons on his shirt undone. Always.
Like Miami Vice, Blackhat treats much of it’s dialogue as literal afterthoughts. The sound mix runs in and out, fading up and down. Hathaway starts talking about his father and the sound just trails out. “You get the idea”, says Mann. When the plot sorta kicks in during the second half of the film and the characters start facing real danger it takes you by surprise since so much time has been spent hanging out, flying around, and wandering into nuclear hot zones like it ain’t no thang. Mann actually starts the first big action sequence with everyone being woken up early, wandering around their hideout all bleary eyed like it’s the first day of school and everyone missed the bus. Later Hathaway and his girlfriend spend their time waiting for the bad guy to call them back by spooning in bed and flipping through pictures on their phones. This scene was very real and true.
As with any other Mann film the violence is exquisite, brutal and final. Wall mines fillet unsuspecting police, Hathaway destroys a group of attackers with a bar table and beer bottle, machine gun bullets literally lift people off their feet. Is this the first Michael Mann film to utilize a missile launcher? Please don’t let it be the last. The blade work at the finale is monstrous and efficient, lest we forget that Hathaway is a guy who has done some time.
You have to love that despite a track record of never delivering what people expect (a straight ahead biopic, a television show adaptation), Michael Mann still gets to make the movie he wants to make. Blackhat is a thoroughly un-compromised Michael Mann film and I love it to pieces.