BLACKHAT (2015, Michael Mann)
This is what I get for loving Brian De Palma. Every time I would hear a critic complain that De Palma’s films are poorly written, or they’re beautiful garbage, or lipstick on a shitty script, I would shake my head and think “But, what lipstick!” For me, the lord our god De Palma transcended all material, and no lowbrow story could stop his highbrow art. As punishment for that fanboyism, I am given Michael Mann — a director many adore with the same reverence, yet whom I so often complain is just dressing up shitty material.
Much more MIAMI VICE than HEAT, THE INSIDER, or COLLATERAL, this cybercrime thriller is an exercise in mood and style — and I don’t want to imply the material is completely bad: in fact, I think the script is better than MIAMI VICE (though it’s the first screenplay credited to a guy who used to edit Adam Sandler comedies like CLICK and I NOW PRONOUNCE YOU CHUCK & LARRY). But it has plenty of moments of idiocy, and if you think about the plot for a few minutes it kind of falls apart. But it gives Mann a chance to explore some pretty cool things, and overall there are enough nice moments in BLACKHAT to feel conflicted about it.
I think of the themes about how the digital age is outpacing global politics; countries and governments are one step behind computers and their architects — and at the core of this particular story is love between an American man and a Chinese woman (and here, though Tang struggles with English as much as her predecessor, the romance feels more necessary than the one between Colin Farrell and Gong Li). The climactic action showdown involves Hemsworth fighting literally against the flow of culture and tradition (though why doesn’t anyone seem remotely concerned that he’s waving a gun around?), and for anything to get done (whether violent or romantic) it must involve hand-to-hand interaction, not digital wizardry.
Michael Mann seems to make movies for the Film Comment arthouse crowd and blue collar thugs, but nobody in between. When I think of a movie like BLOW OUT or FEMME FATALE, I know what he means.