Blackhat (15) **

Blackhat. Tang Wei as Chen Lien and Leehom Wang as Chen Dawai.Picture: PA Photo/Universal Pictures.
Blackhat. Tang Wei as Chen Lien and Leehom Wang as Chen Dawai.Picture: PA Photo/Universal Pictures.
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Following the attack on the computer systems of Sony Pictures in November 2014 and subsequent leak of emails, the insidious threat posed by cybercriminals is fresh in everyone’s mind.

Director Michael Mann’s polished yet soulless action thriller is perfectly timed to tap into this mood of pixellated paranoia.

While the film’s hardware - direction, cinematography, action sequences - is robust, the software - characterisation, interpersonal relationships, dialogue - desperately needs an upgrade.

The central romance between Thor hunk Chris Hemsworth and pretty Chinese actress Tang Wei catalyses by clumsy dramatic necessity because she’s the only woman in the film, in fact the whole of Asia, who wouldn’t pass for his mother. We don’t believe their heartfelt declarations for a second.

An elusive mastermind (Yorick van Wageningen) causes an explosion at a Hong Kong nuclear plant and tampers with the price of soy on Chicago’s Mercantile Trade Exchange using a Remote Access Tool (RAT), which gains access to computer systems and allows his malware to run amok.

Chinese military officer Captain Chen Dawai (Leehom Wang) joins forces with his sister Lien (Wei), a gifted network engineer, to unmask the culprit.

It transpires that part of the RAT’s coding was written years ago by Dawai and his university roommate Nicholas Hathaway (Hemsworth), who is behind prison bars for computer crime.

The Chinese align with FBI Special Agent Carol Barrett (Viola Davis) and she promises Hathaway a commuted sentence if he apprehends the hacker.

Taking its title from a hacker who invades systems for personal gain, Blackhat struggles to compute a gripping thriller from invisible 21st-century warfare.

Hemsworth appears to have strutted straight off the set of The Avengers, sporting a ridiculously perfect physique for someone consigned to a prison cell.

Wei is a non-descript love interest while Davis has only one decent scene of feisty banter to justify her heavyweight casting.

East meets west but his film goes south.