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Movie Review

Chen Dawai knows exactly what he's looking at as he examines the complicated computer code in front of him. And he understands precisely how the current tragedy he's investigating happened.

He can see that a hacker tapped into the Chinese nuclear facility's computer program and pinpointed two very precise mechanical areas at the site. The attacker only needed to convince the system's sensors—with a simple string of code—that everything was completely normal. Just keep the master console's row of gauges and dials sitting comfortably in the green … while the reactor's malfunctioning water pumps plunged the nuclear fuel rods into the red.

The odd thing was, even after the facility went offline, hundreds were injured or killed and a meltdown was just barely avoided, there were no demands. There was no political statement made. No one took credit. And later, when the same hacker apparently caused an artificial run on soybean futures in the international market, it was similar. No demands. No credit.

But Colonel Chen of China's Cyber Defense Organization knows where at least part of the blame should be laid. For when he studies the computer code used to break into the systems, the RAT that slipped in the program's back door, he recognizes the coding handiwork straightaway. It's his own.

He had developed the code years ago on a whim with his American friend and roommate at MIT. Nick Hathaway was the man's name, an extremely talented programmer who had later gone astray—a blond giant who was currently serving time in some U.S. prison.

No, Hathaway wasn't the hacker. That was impossible. But he just might be the key to finding out who the cryptic code coaxer is. Hathaway knows his way around computers better than anyone Chen has ever met. And now, with the Chinese and American governments both trying to untangle this conundrum before an even worse disaster is doled out, there's more than enough power in play to pull Hathaway out of jail and into Chen's equation.

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Positive Elements

Given a second chance at freedom and life, Hathaway goes above and beyond the call of duty to try to root out the nefarious Blackhat hacker and keep him from potentially stealing billions of dollars and killing more innocent people. And when he takes some illegal online steps in the process, he makes sure that only he—and not the rest of his team—will be blamed if they're caught. (It's a morally murky thing he's doing, to be sure. And I'll ding this flick for that a bit later. But at least he's willing to face the consequences if need-be.) Similarly, when Hathaway falls in love with Chen's sister, Lien, he's selflessly willing to walk away from the relationship for her wellbeing.

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Hathaway and Lien passionately kiss and caress, once while lying together on her bed. They're still clothed in that scene, but later they get naked (and are strategically covered by a sheet).

Violent Content

Some of this pic's slam-bam action is kept at a distance and rendered in nearly bloodless ways.

Some.

Much more in your face are scenes in which several key figures get gunned down or stabbed repeatedly in the neck and chest. We're asked to watch them writhe in agony as they bleed out in large pools of blood. A crowd of innocents is manhandled and ultimately mowed down by thugs with automatic weapons. A group of policemen are riddled with large-caliber gunfire and ripped apart with shrapnel from detonated explosive traps.

A car bomb explodes and immediately incinerates a passenger in the blaze. A screwdriver gets jammed through a guy's head—from temple to temple. In the midst of a fight, a man's arm is broken backward at the elbow. Hathaway defends himself against five attackers by slamming their heads into tables and walls, slashing one guy's face with a broken bottle and smacking the edge of a table down on another's throat.

Hathaway lifts his shirt to reveal a large weeping gash on his abdomen. He's hit in the face with Mace spray. A vehicle is pushed off the roof of a parking garage; it crashes down on another roof below.

Crude or Profane Language

One f-word and one s-word join multiple uses of "b--ch," "a--," "h---" and "p---." God's name is combined with "d--n" once.

Drug and Alcohol Content

One of Chen and Hathaway's suspects ends up dead with a heroin needle still stuck in his arm. Wounded, Hathaway sticks an IV drip into his own arm. A man smokes a cigarette.

Other Negative Elements

Hathaway tries to justify his previous illegal attacks by stressing that they were against "banks, not people." He hacks into the NSA.

Conclusion

Most of us 21st-century American moviegoers tend to feel like we're pretty savvy when it comes to figuring out what looks credible onscreen—what at least has the "feeling" of reality. And we make no exception for espionage, computer hacking and global governmental squabbles—even though most of us don't actually know the first thing about such matters in our usually quiet workaday lives. Maybe it's the high-tech world we live in. The digital comradery we share with our iPhones. The recent high-profile hacks perpetrated against the likes of Sony that we read so much about. Or all the tacky-tech police procedurals on TV we soak up. Whatever it is, we're hip to it!

And that doesn't work in Blackhat's favor. This is something of a computer-hacking non-thriller that feels illogical, ill-defined and, well, rather poorly "coded." Whether it actually is or not, well, I'll leave that to all those top-secret tech spies and underground computer geniuses to weigh in on. (Which they won't do because they're far too busy with much more complicated things than movie reviews.)

What also doesn't work in Blackhat's favor is its bullet-riddled, stab-'em-in-the-throat bloodiness. Its profanities. Its sexual stuff. And the too-breezy way it plays around with what's right and wrong, legal and illegal, white and black.

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Content Caution

Kids
Teens
Adults

Credits

Rating

R

Readability Age Range

Author

Cast

Chris Hemsworth as Nicholas Hathaway; Wang Leehom as Chen Dawai; Wei Tang as Chen Lien; Viola Davis as Carol Barrett; Ritchie Coster as Kassar; Yorick van Wageningen as Sadak; Holt McCallany as Mark Jessup

Director

Michael Mann ( Public EnemiesMiami ViceCollateralAliThe Insider)

Distributor

Universal Pictures

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

In Theaters

January 16, 2015

On Video

May 12, 2015

Year Published

Awards

Reviewer

Bob Hoose

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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