Super-computer hacking, about as exciting as watching paint dry, right? Maybe. Rouge agents, sabotaging for personal and financial gains, could work? Possibly. Well leave it to Michael Mann to make all of that as exciting and innovative as anything you’ll see. From a dazzling R.A.T. program that brings down a power plant, to cat and mouse chase through the streets of Hong Kong, clichés right? Not to Mann the man, no pun intended, who invented the stylized thriller with both the movie and TV series “Miami Vice,” to epic modern-day westerns, “Heat,” nail-biting roller coaster’s into darkness “Collateral,” this is a film maker who knows how reinvent a genre reduced to clichés every time he gets behind a camera.
Basically an unknown figure manipulates the stock market by hacking into the mainframes of the NY stock exchange and how do they cover up the hack, by destroying the servers, at a Chinese nuclear power plant. Which begins a high-tech cat and mouse chase across the globe where the only one that can help is a convict, Chris Hemsworth. Some would argue the casting is just playing for looks/sex-appeal but Mann, with screenwriter Morgan Davis Foehl, helps craft a character that’s both tough and intelligent. Just check out a scene where he goes one on one with hackers on his keyboard telling power and emotion without saying a word, obviously Mann has done his homework.
As with every filmmaker who’s been around the block they usually fall into the gimmicks of the trade and sadly Mann has done that a little bit. There’s the same over stylization, do we need to have super blue light and skylines behind the actors every time they walk into a building? Same digital cinematography, same electronic/techno, ambient music, same saturated colorization and of course a chase in a subway. Apparently that’s a pre-requisite of any one of Mann’s films. And then there are these meditative moments that seem like he turned the movie over to Terrance Malick. Scenes where he just leaves his camera on while the actors just do what they will while his Moby-like score just plays over the moment. It’s an obvious attempt at art, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing it’s just with Mann we want him to stop feeding us veggie burgers and get back to the steak that is the action of the story.
But Mann still has crafted a thriller that goes beyond the conventions of a action-thriller. He has intelligence and style to his films that so many modern thriller/action directors forgot to include in their stories. So those looking to escape the dumping ground that is the winter movie schedule “Black Hat” is a gift.
By: Jason Greathouse
3 out of 4 Stars