Director Michael Mann (Ali, The Last of the Mohicans) has made a career by continuing to make films that are just under great. The Last of the Mohicans, Collateral, The Insider, and Heat were all solid films and show that he has a nice range as a storyteller, but they were missing a little something to make them great films. Because of his talent he has attracted such notable talent or box office draws like Tom Cruise, Daniel Day Lewis, Johnny Depp, Will Smith, and Russell Crowe to work with him. Six years after his latest film, Public Enemies (another decent film starring Johnny Depp), he comes back with a stinker. It is too bad because it is one of those films that you want to like. A modern story with a likable leading man and yet it falls flat on its face.
Nick Hathaway (Chris Hemsworth – Thor, The Avengers) is a man who has the talent and ability to hack his way into any system. Instead of using his talent for good he goes down the wrong path. His trouble becomes real and deep when a code that he wrote when he was young is used as part of a malware that is used in a terrorist attack upon a factory in China. As such he is given a 15 year prison sentence.
An unexpected opportunity comes Nick’s way in the form of his former MIT roommate, Lien Chen (Wei Tang – Dragon). Chen in partnership with Carol Barrett (Viola Davis – from television’s How To Get Away With Murder) heads a joint Chinese-American task force trying to find out who is behind a couple of cyber attacks on a Chinese nuclear power plant and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. To try and catch the hacker Chen talks Barrett into getting Nick furloughed from his sentence. Nick even manages to get his sentenced commuted if he manages to catch the hacker. As such, Nick is really invested in working on the right side of the law for a change.
Upon the lights going up in the theatre your mind goes to “well, that could have been a good film if someone else would have directed it”. Mann has never been your typical director, but it seems like he has really lost his way lately. As a result the film is an aimless mess instead of the tight cyber thriller it had the potential to be. It seems like he was trying to make an arty thriller and instead it ends up being a bumpy, unfocused with poor sound hodge-podge. Though he has done thrillers before Mann seems to want to make this a work of art instead of focusing on the energy and action requisite of the genre. Loads of raw shots or what is supposed to be a high point ends up just being a blue-lit shot of a naked Hemsworth wearing only his electronic ankle bracelet. Missing the point completely it makes an over two hour film seem even longer. Admittedly my attention drifted off at points, but I don’t think I missed anything that would have made a difference.
As for the actors Chris Hemsworth tries his best and it is really not his fault that he is in the wrong type of film based on his talents. Both Viola Davis and Wei Tang play one dimensional characters and as such it is hard to judge their contributions.
I should have realized by now that at this point in January is when studios release pictures that they do not hold in high esteem. Too bad this one wasn’t hacked or offended North Korea so it could be erased from existence.