Blackhat (film)

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Blackhat
Blackhat poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Michael Mann
Produced by
Written by
  • Morgan Davis Foehl
  • Michael Mann
Starring
Music by
Cinematography Stuart Dryburgh
Edited by
Production
company
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release dates
  • January 8, 2015 (2015-01-08) (Los Angeles premiere)
  • January 16, 2015 (2015-01-16)
Running time
133 minutes[2]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $70 million[3]
Box office $17.8 million[3]

Blackhat is a 2015 American action thriller mystery film co-written, co-produced and directed by Michael Mann. The film stars Chris Hemsworth, Tang Wei, Viola Davis, Holt McCallany, and Wang Leehom. The film premiered at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles on January 8, 2015, and was released in theaters on January 16.[4]

Plot[edit]

At a nuclear plant in Chai Wan, Hong Kong, a hacker causes the coolant pumps to overheat and explode. Not long after in Chicago, the Mercantile Trade Exchange gets hacked, causing soy futures to rise. The Chinese government and the FBI determine that the hack was caused by a Remote Access Tool (RAT). A military officer in China's cyber warfare unit, Captain Chen Dawai (Leehom Wang), is tasked to find the people responsible for the attacks, and enlists the aid of his sister Chen Lien (Tang Wei), a networking engineer. He meets with FBI Agent Carol Barrett (Viola Davis) in Los Angeles and reveals the code in the RAT was written by himself and Nicholas Hathaway (Chris Hemsworth), his college roommate, in their school days years before Hathaway was sent to prison for an unrelated hack. Dawai asks that the FBI arrange for Hathaway to be released from prison, where he is serving a sentence for computer crimes. Hathaway is offered temporary release in exchange for his services.

A dead colleague's computer yields a clue to a connection, so Hathaway and Lien go to the rendezvous but it is a trap set by the hacker to alert him to pursuit. Hathaway fights three men.

In Hong Kong, the team traces the stock trade money to a known paramilitary named Kassar. A stakeout team is murdered while Hathaway, Jessup, Chen, Trang along with a Special Duties Unit team raid Kassar's hideout but once again it is a trap. A shootout ensues and Trang as well as a number of SDU officers are killed. Kassar and his men escape.

The nuclear plant has stabilized enough to retrieve a data drive from the control room but it is corrupted. Agent Barrett turns a blind eye while Hathaway hacks into the NSA to use a classified data tool called Black Widow to reconstruct the corrupted data. He learns that the hacker's server is based in Jakarta. Lien finds out the hacker has been buying satellite photos of a site near Seri Manjung, Malaysia.

Hathaway's hack into the NSA does not go unnoticed and the US government demands his return to prison. Dawai's superiors agree as they do not want to antagonize the US, while Barrett and her partner Agent Jessup receive orders to detain Hathaway. Dawai, Lien and Hathaway manage to elude their pursuers and make plans to leave Hong Kong and continue their investigation when they are attacked by Kassar and his men, who have been following them. Dawai is killed; shortly after, Barrett and Jessup, who have been tracking Hathaway using an ankle bracelet, arrive at the scene. While both Barrett and Jessup are killed in a firefight, they buy enough time for Lien and Hathaway to escape into the subway.

Hathaway and Lien travel to the location of the satellite photos in Malaysia to try and figure out the hacker's goal. Hathaway realizes that the hacker's attack at the nuclear plant was merely a test for a later plan to destroy several major tin mines in Malaysia, allowing the hacker to make a fortune trading tin futures, financed using the funds from the Mercantile Exchange hack. The two then travel to Jakarta and using a distraction manage to physically gain access to the hacker's server. They manage to transfer the hacker's money from his Hong Kong bank and force the hacker to contact them. The hacker and Hathaway agree to meet to negotiate the return of the money, supposedly in exchange for Hathaway's involvement in the larger scheme.

Hathaway insists the hacker and Kassar come alone but they bring their gang along. The meeting place is a crowded parade and Hathaway trails the hacker and Kassar from behind. Kassar pulls a gun on Hathaway but Hathaway is prepared and manages to stab him with a hidden screwdriver. Two of the hacker's men catch up and wound Hathaway, who manages to kill them. Hathaway finally faces off with the hacker and manages to kill him despite getting stabbed. He escapes the chaos of the parade with Lien's help, and then gets patched up. The film ends with Lien and Hathaway leaving Indonesia, with the hacker's money still in their bank account.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

Chris Hemsworth (left) and Michael Mann (right) at the 2014 San Diego Comic Con, promoting the film.

In an interview done at the LMU Film school, Michael Mann said he was inspired to make Blackhat after reading about the events surrounding Stuxnet, which was a computer worm that targeted and reportedly ruined almost one fifth of Iran's nuclear centrifuges.[5] In keeping with his high standard for authenticity, Mann brought in several technical advisors and consultants like former hackers Christopher McKinley and Kevin Poulsen (senior editor for Wired News), to make the film as authentic as possible.[6] McKinley was famous for hacking the online dating site, OkCupid, in order to make his profile the most attractive to women.[7] Director Mann also met with Mike Rogers, who was Chairman of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence until 2015. Parisa Tabriz, who manages Google's information security engineering team, said that "It's the most accurate information security film I've seen."[8]

The film was tentatively titled Cyber, however the final title was revealed on July 26, 2014 during a panel at San Diego Comic-Con International, and it was being estimated that it might qualify for the Oscars.[9] The first official trailer for the film was released on September 25, 2014.[10]

Filming began on May 17, 2013, in Los Angeles, California; Hong Kong; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; and Jakarta, Indonesia.

Director Mann donated HK$300,000 (US$38,500) to The Community Chest of Hong Kong in the name of Hang Seng Bank, to thank the bank for allowing him to film Blackhat for five evenings in the bank's lobby area.[11]

In November 2013, Universal set the North American release date for January 16, 2015.[12] Shortly after the official premiere of the movie, composer Harry Gregson-Williams stated that although he is credited for the score the final film "contains almost none of my compositions".[13] He would later delete the status update containing this information.[13]

Soundtrack[edit]

The film score was composed by Harry Gregson-Williams[1] and Atticus Ross.[1] Upon viewing the film, however, Gregson-Williams posted a message on Facebook stating that his score went almost unused in the final edit, which included synthesized music not prepared by him or Ross.[14] He went on to say that, "I therefore reluctantly join the long list of composers who have had their scores either sliced and diced mercilessly or ignored completely by Michael Mann."[15]

Mann later explained that he often prefers to use more than one composer "to rotate among different emotional perspectives", stating, "If a composer wants to have his music stand alone, he should be a recording artist and let his work contest itself in that arena.[16]

Release[edit]

Blackhat opened at the beginning of the Martin Luther King holiday weekend in January of 2015 at the same time as American Sniper, an "unexpected juggernaut"[17] that set records for the largest January opening weekend in history,[18] and Taken 3. Blackhat was a box office bomb, opening at #11 and earning only $1.7 million on its opening day. It made just $4.4 million for the weekend against its $70 million budget.[19] This made the movie one of the worst debuts ever for a movie playing in over 2,500 locations.[20]

An in-depth analysis by industry trade publication Deadline of why Blackhat did not perform primarily examined the marketing strategy as “the major challenge they were unable to overcome” [21] with independent tracking services supporting this conclusion: “total awareness for Blackhat was in the 40-50% range on January 4 and grew to 50-60% on January 15 (versus American Sniper’s 80-90%).” [21] Additionally, “the film wasn’t helped by a marketing campaign that failed to convey a sophisticated plot and a romance… Blackhat instead chased a young audience with action footage that did not seem fresh.” [21]

After only two weeks, Universal decided to yank the film from all but 236 theaters. It had been in 2,568 theaters, making it the sixth-biggest drop in history for a third-week film.[22]

Internationally, the film grossed $2.33 million in 19 territories in its opening weekend.[23] It played below expectations in markets including Denmark, Greece, Poland, Taiwan, Turkey and Vietnam.[24] Deadline credited Lee Hom Wang and Tang Wei’s inclusion with increased success in other nations including Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand.[23] In its third weekend, the film grossed $1.8 million with openings of $595,000 and $446,000 in Russia and Spain, respectively.[25] In its fourth weekend, the film grossed $1.2 million for a total of $8.4 million, with its top opener in Germany at $526,000.[26]

Due to the less-than-stellar numbers at the American and Asian box-office, Universal Pictures International opted not to release Blackhat theatrically in Australia.[27] The film was also scrapped for a theatrical release in Belgium.[28]

In the aftermath, Legendary took a $90 million write-down on the film.[29]

On February 20, 2015, Blackhat debuted in the UK.

The film was released on Blu-ray and DVD on May 12, 2015.[30][needs update]

Reception[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes the film holds a rating of 34%, based on 154 reviews, and an average rating of 4.9/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Thematically timely but dramatically inert, Blackhat strands Chris Hemsworth in a muddled misfire from director Michael Mann."[31] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 51 out of 100, based on 37 critics, with 16 positive reviews, 12 mixed reviews, and 9 negative reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[32] According to CinemaScore, audiences gave the film a grade of "C−" on an A+ to F scale.[33]

Manohla Dargis from The New York Times gave the film a largely positive review stating, “Michael Mann’s thriller ‘Blackhat,’ a story about the intersection of bodies and machines, is a spectacular work of unhinged moviemaking.”[34] Kenneth Turan from The Los Angeles Times wrote, “It lures us in with the promise of up-to-the-minute villainy, but the satisfactions of ‘Blackhat’ are surprisingly old school.”[35] The Hollywood Reporter’s Sheri Linden noted, “The essential problem of cyber-thrillers is one that even so gifted a director hasn’t quite solved, particularly in the film’s first half: Characters looking at computer screens and explaining the significance of what they see doesn’t make for the most riveting viewing.”[36]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d "WIRED January 2015: Q&A With Director Michael Mann". WIRED January 2015. Retrieved 18 January 2015. 
  2. ^ "BLACKHAT (15)". British Board of Film Classification. January 19, 2015. Retrieved January 19, 2015. 
  3. ^ a b "Blackhat (2015) - Box Office Mojo". boxofficemojo.com. Retrieved 6 March 2015. 
  4. ^ "Chris Hemsworth poses with stunning on-screen lover Wei Tang at Blackhat premiere". Daily Mail. 2015-01-09. Retrieved 2015-01-16. 
  5. ^ "The Hollywood Masters - Michael Mann - Blackhat". YouTube. September 29, 2014. 
  6. ^ "What Blackhat Gets Right: A Chat With Former Hacker Kevin Poulsen". Gizmodo. January 16, 2015. 
  7. ^ "How a Math Genius Hacked OkCupid to Find True Love". Wired. January 21, 2014. 
  8. ^ "Hackers on Blackhat: Hollywood finally gets internet right". www.bbc.com. 2015-01-16. 
  9. ^ Fleming, Mike, Jr. (2014-07-26). "Comic-Con: Michael Mann's Cyberthriller Movie Titled 'Blackhat', Will Qualify For Oscar Run". Deadline.com. Retrieved 2014-07-26. 
  10. ^ Anderton, Ethan (September 25, 2014). "Chris Hemsworth Hunts Cybercriminals in First Trailer for 'Blackhat'". firstshowing.net. Retrieved September 26, 2014. 
  11. ^ 中環在線:感激恒生 米高曼捐30萬畀公益金. Apple Daily (in Chinese). 2013-08-20. 
  12. ^ "Universal Dates 'The Mummy' Reboot For April 2016, Pushes 'Warcraft' Out Of 2015 Holiday Slot". Deadline.com. November 27, 2013. 
  13. ^ a b Yamato, Jen. "‘Blackhat’ Composer Backs Down After Slamming Michael Mann Over Score". Deadline. Retrieved 15 January 2015. 
  14. ^ Jen Yamato. "‘Blackhat’ Composer Backs Down After Slamming Michael Mann Over Score - Deadline". Deadline. Retrieved 18 January 2015. 
  15. ^ "Blackhat composer accuses director Michael Mann of 'slicing and dicing' his score". International Business Times UK. Retrieved 18 January 2015. 
  16. ^ Quora Contributor (2015-02-09). "Michael Mann: How do directors pick composers to score their movies?". Slate.com. Retrieved 2015-04-15. 
  17. ^ "Sienna Miller On ‘American Sniper’, Fame, ‘Cabaret’ & Ben Brantley: Conversations With Jeremy Gerard". deadline.com. Retrieved February 12, 2015. 
  18. ^ "Chris Hemsworth's New Hacker Movie 'Blackhat' Bombs At The Box Office". deadline.com. Retrieved February 12, 2015. 
  19. ^ Anthony D'Alessandro (2015-01-20). "‘Blackhat’ Box Office Bomb: What Happened To The Michael Mann Film?". Deadline. Retrieved 2015-04-15. 
  20. ^ "Weekend Report (cont.): Solid Starts for 'Ringer,' 'Paddington,' While 'Blackhat' Bombs". Box Office Mojo. 2015-01-18. Retrieved 2015-04-15. 
  21. ^ a b c "Legendary’s Michael Mann Pic ‘Blackhat': What The Hell Happened?". deadline.com. Retrieved February 12, 2015. 
  22. ^ "Movies: Universal Basically Pulls "Blackhat" from Circulation, Johnny Depp’s "Mortdecai" MIA". Showbiz411. 2015-01-31. Retrieved 2015-04-15. 
  23. ^ a b "‘Sniper’ Hits Eastwood Highs; ‘Taken’, ‘Son’ Top International Box Office: Final". deadline.com. Retrieved March 4, 2015. 
  24. ^ "Legendary’s Michael Mann Pic ‘Blackhat': What The Hell Happened?". deadline.com. Retrieved March 4, 2015. 
  25. ^ "‘Penguins’, ‘Sniper’ Aim Higher In Actuals: International Box Office Update". deadline.com. Retrieved March 4, 2015. 
  26. ^ "‘Jupiter’ Ascends A Touch; ‘Exodus’ Crosses $200M: Intl Box Office Actuals". deadline.com. Retrieved March 4, 2015. 
  27. ^ Network writers (2015-01-20). "Blackhat loses out to American Sniper in the US box office". News.com.au. Retrieved 2015-04-15. 
  28. ^ Van der Velde, Jimmy. "Blackhat niet in Belgische zalen". Vertigo. Vertigo. Retrieved 4 May 2015. 
  29. ^ Marc Graser (2015-02-04). "Legendary Stumbles With Big Writedowns on ‘Seventh Son,’ ‘Blackhat’ (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved 2015-04-15. 
  30. ^ "Blackhat DVD Release Date May 12, 2015". DVDReleaseDates.com. 
  31. ^ "Blackhat". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved July 15, 2015. 
  32. ^ "Blackhat". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved February 20, 2015. 
  33. ^ "CinemaScore". CinemaScore. Retrieved 2015-07-15. 
  34. ^ Manohla Dargis. "‘Blackhat,’ a Cyberthriller Starring Chris Hemsworth". New York Times. Retrieved February 11, 2015. 
  35. ^ "High-tech 'Blackhat' remains rooted in old-school filmmaking". latimes.com. Retrieved February 11, 2015. 
  36. ^ "'Blackhat': Film Review". hollywoodreporter.com. Retrieved February 11, 2015. 

External links[edit]