RATING |

A moody cyber-noir with not much on its mind but looking good, Blackhat is a must-see if you like your dialogue (romantic, dramatic, subtitled Cantonese) peppered with techspeak.

When Chris Hemsworth - yes, the mighty Thor, this time an ace hacker sprung from jail to help the feds crack an Internet terrorist ring - incants stuff like "remote access tool," "memory dump," and "externally firewalled," audiences are going to shiver and swoon. Well, audiences in the Silicon Valley, maybe, where a bunch of people probably already have downloaded pirated files of the film to savor in the comfort of their geekcaves.

Michael Mann, whose best work (Manhunter, Last of the Mohicans, The Insider, Ali) combined brilliant visual artistry with characters and stories of substance, imbues Blackhat with a gloomy, midnight quiet that makes its two big action sequences all the more jolting for their rattle and bang. But there's nothing at all substantive about Hemsworth's Nicholas Hathaway (apart from his muscle tone) - he's a tough, taciturn digital brainiac, or so we're told. Viola Davis' FBI agent doesn't want to use him to help thwart a cyber-gang that has caused a meltdown at a Chinese nuclear power plant, but Hathaway's old MIT roomie, Chen (Leehom Wang), high up in Chinese military intelligence, insists.

Then, Chen insists that his sister, Lien (Wei Tang), join them as they hop from Hong Kong to Jakarta to Malaysia. She's the only network engineer he trusts. She doesn't do anywhere near as much clickety-clacking on keyboards as her brother or Hathaway, but her cuddling and canoodling skills are to die for. Chen has never seen his sister as happy as she is around Hathaway, although one must wonder how she looked pre-Hemsworth, because even in his hunky company, Lien barely cracks a smile. She's the saddest of sad-eyed ladies from Kowloon land.

The screenplay, credited to Morgan Davis Foehl, is a marvel of plotholes, gaps in logic, and worn-down cliches, and Mann juices it all up with urgent comings and goings via helicopter and private jets, the roar of rotor blades, the trot-trot of SWAT teams knocking down doors just a couple of minutes too late to catch the bad guys.

Stock markets, bank accounts, and NSA sites aren't the only thing being hacked in Blackhat. The whole thing reeks of hackery.

Blackhat ** (Out of four stars)

Directed by Michael Mann. With Chris Hemsworth, Viola Davis, Wei Tang, Leehom Wang. In English, and in Cantonese with subtitles. Distributed by Universal Pictures.

Running time: 2 hours, 13 mins.

Parent's guide: R (violence, profanity,

sex, adult themes).

Playing at: Area theaters.EndText

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