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Thor as a hacker? Hemsworth’s size the least of ‘Blackhat’s’ problems

Chris Hemsworth is the best thing to happen to hackers since the death of dial-up modems.

Giving the world’s computer jockeys a significant image boost, People magazine’s reigning sexiest man alive stars as convicted cybercriminal Nicholas Hathaway in Michael Mann’s globe-hopping high-tech thriller “Blackhat,” opening Friday.

After hackers cause an explosion at a Chinese nuclear reactor, local cyberdefense captain Chen Dawai (Wang Leehom) gets a look at the malware and realizes the delivery code was something he co-authored with Hathaway, his former MIT roommate. Once the same hackers target the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, Chen gets Hathaway sprung from prison to help him and an FBI agent (Viola Davis at her no-nonsense-iest) bring the culprits to justice.

On the surface, casting Thor himself as one of the world’s pre-eminent computer geniuses sounds as ludicrous a creation as Christmas Jones, Denise Richards’ midriff-baring nuclear physicist from “The World Is Not Enough.”

But whether it was always Mann’s intent to have such a rough-and-tumble action star at the center of “Blackhat,” or if the script was reverse engineered once Hemsworth signed on, the actor’s size and strength are the least of the movie’s problems. (Its convoluted, at times nonsensical plot is a whole other story.)

Hemsworth slimmed down but is still extremely ripped for a hacker. Then again, you’d need to work out 23 hours a day just to survive prison when you’re that pretty. Speaking of which, Hathaway still looks like a supermodel despite having spent the past four years behind bars with all manner of dangerous thugs, overly aggressive guards and apparently one fantastic prison barber. Seriously, who was this guy’s cellmate, Vidal Sassoon?

The love story between Hathaway and Chen’s sister (Tang Wei) develops absurdly fast. The two stare at each other for maybe a second or so before they start going at it. Rushed as it is, that’s also easy to explain away. For Hathaway, he’s fresh out of prison. For her, Hathaway looks just like Chris Hemsworth.

Hathaway’s combat skills, demonstrated by swinging bottles, tables and chairs in a restaurant brawl, are attributed to a downward spiral started by a separate prison stint and something about having traded academia for a gladiator academy.

Between Tang Wei’s poor command of English and Hemsworth’s vague, wandering accent that makes him sound, to borrow a phrase from Aaron Sorkin, like he’s from Boston, California, “Blackhat” is a difficult movie to understand.

What’s easy to grasp is why Mann would want Hemsworth, a fine movie star if not yet a great actor, at the center of it.

Contact Christopher Lawrence at clawrence@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4567.

 

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