Review: ‘Blackhat’ AKA ‘Thordfish’ is January’s First Great Airplane movie

Pushing Tin (Or, Michael Mann’s Barely Disguised Asian Vacation)

Blackhat isn’t what you’d call thought provoking, but you certainly leave with a lot of questions. “Whose idea was this?” “How can something go so wrong in so many different ways?” “Did Michael Mann and DJ Caruso switch bodies?”

It opens with a cyber attack on a Taiwanese nuclear power plant, with the hack depicted visually using a camera that traces the digital information down the cable that conveys it, on into the circuitry, down and down into the chip until it becomes binary then electrical – sort of like the Fight Club opening credits applied to a computer. Sure, why not.

In the wake of the meltdown, the Chinese government decides they need to cooperate with the US, in a bizarrely stilted scene that, if I’m not mistaken, consists of ADR-dubbed dialog that only sometimes matches the characters’ lips (you only sort of notice it when you’re busy trying to read subtitles). So they send their most snot-nosed young hotshot to the US, where he demands the authorities Sean Connery his old MIT roommate, a hacker named Hathaway (Chris Hemsworth!), out of the joint, seeing as how they designed this cyber The Rock together in the first place. And who better to play a former MIT hotshot than a six foot five Australian with a waxed chest and the body of a Viking deity?

Not that this is a criticism. You know Thor’s playing a computer hacker from the poster, so the fact that Blackhat isn’t going to be a social realist drama about regret and yearning is already outlined in the ticketbuyer’s unwritten Ts & Cs agreement. YOU MAY NOT COMPLAIN ABOUT CASTING. *Agree*

Trouble is, the more Blackhat tries to justify this character, the more ridiculous he gets. According to the expository, “revealin’-my-troubled-background-to-a-sexy-lady” scene, Hathaway has already managed to squeeze into his young life: MIT, a stint in prison for accidentally doing grievous harm to some dudes who were messing with his lady, an unsuccessful return to society after prison, followed by turning to hacking to make ends meet when no one would give a job to an ex-con, and another stint in prison for said hacking. Ergo, he’s a super hacker, a deadly practitioner of hand-to-hand combat, AND a hardened ex-con, all wrapped up in one supremely handsome hairless beefcake. Phew, no wonder the ladies all drop like flies around him!

Here is a brief list of things Hathaway accomplishes in Blackhat:

  • Shanks a mercenary in the skull
  • Takes out three Korean gangsters with a broken bottle
  • Hacks into the NSA
  • Improvises an IV from scratch and performs invasive surgery on himself
  • Makes body armor out of magazines

He’s like a jacked, super handsome MacGyver with the brain of Stephen Hawking.

And what worthy adversary do they pit against this brilliant He-Hulk, you ask?? What evil scheme must he use his muscular hacking skills to foil?? Why, it’s a plot to drive up global tin prices, of course!

Seriously. Tin.

I thought long and hard about whether this was “spoilery” or not, but in the end I decided that it was so out of left field that it couldn’t possibly count as a spoiler. About an hour and 40-some minutes into the film, the big reveal is that the bad guy’s evil plan all along was to artificially boost the price of tin. This was a bombshell as Earth shattering as a mouse queef, and I wish I could’ve recorded the looks on the faces of the audience as they tried to come to grips with it. Look, I’m not a pacifist, I just don’t think tin futures are worth shanking anyone in the temple over. And since even the good guys don’t seem too concerned with returning investors’ money, you wonder who the real victim was (other than that guy Thor stabbed in the dome, of course).