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BLACKHAT: 2 STARS. “the whole movie feels in need of a reboot.”

Chris-Hemsworth-Blackhat-679x350In computer hacker lingo the term “blackhat” refers to someone who violates computer or Internet security for illegal personal gain. It’s a riff on the old school nickname for a bad guy and it’s also the name of a new moody Michael Mann film about cyber terrorism.

I’ll add that if Mann keeps making movies this lazy, he’s the one who should be wearing the black hat.

When we first meet Nicholas Hathaway (People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Chris Hemsworth), he’s the world’s best-looking hacker, serving a thirteen-year sentence for launching a cyber attack on a bank and making off with forty six million dollars.

When a Chinese nuclear plant is sabotaged and world financial markets are tampered with authorities give Hathaway a get-out-of-jail-free card because he’s the only computer whiz on earth geekified enough to stop a cyber terrorist from causing havoc.

The terrorist is an enigma who doesn’t ask for ransom or make a political statement. “What does this guy want?” asks Hathaway.

To find out he leads FBI agent Carol Barrett (Viola Davis), Chinese government General Chen Dawai (Leehom Wang) and Chen’s beautiful hacker sister Lien (Wei Tang) on a journey from America to Hong Kong and Jakarta in an effort to bring the terrorist to justice.

Cyber crime is a hot button topic these days, but it doesn’t make for great storytelling. Scenes of Hathaway hunched over a laptop, tapping away on a keyboard, while delivering crucial story points aren’t terribly interesting. Mann tries to jazz things up with the hacker genre cliché of having the camera pierce the computer screen and race along a series of wires and onto the information highway like Bruce Springsteen speeding down Thunder Road in a stolen ’57 Cadillac. It’s a hack move in a hacking movie and he does it repeatedly.

The movie fares better when it moves away from the computer, but even then there are plot twists that require a suspension of disbelief that no amount of jiggling the cord can fix. Hathaway pieces together the villain’s elaborate scheme in one fell swoop and tops it off with the film’s only (and unintentionally) funny line. It is ridiculous but not nearly as silly as the MacGyverish finale that is as old school as the idea of cyber terrorism is new school.

Mann can stage a heart pounding action scene, and pulls off a couple of them here that spice things up when the movie starts to run a bit slow, but at 133 minutes the whole movie feels in need of a reboot.

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