By Chris Nashawaty
Updated January 27, 2015 at 05:00 AM EST
Frank Connor

Even the best filmmakers can cough up a dud now and then. Exhibit A: Michael Mann’s ludicrous high-tech cat-and-mouse thriller Blackhat. It’s a rare and confounding misstep from the director of such stylishly macho noirs as Thief, Heat, and Collateral. For starters, Chris Hemsworth is all wrong as the lead. The strapping Aussie may be convincing as many things—a hammer-wielding Norse god, a death-defying Formula One driver—but a brainiac MIT coding whiz isn’t one of them. (Somewhere Jesse Eisenberg must be punching his Thor action figure.) Nevertheless, Hemsworth, in a series of rakishly unbuttoned linen shirts, plays Nicholas Hathaway, an imprisoned hacker who’s furloughed to help the feds track down the shadowy cybercrime network behind the explosion of a Chinese nuclear reactor. Was it an act of terrorism or merely a red herring to cover up a money scheme? Hathaway teams up with Chen (Wang Leehom), an old college pal-turned-Chinese-government agent; an FBI agent (the wasted Viola Davis); and for some reason Chen’s sister (Tang Wei). Although Blackhat globe-trots from L.A. to Hong Kong and Jakarta, the exotic locations are not only all drowned in the same cold blue light Mann popularized 30 years ago on Miami Vice, they’re completely squandered. In fact, everything about the snoozy procedural feels like a wasted opportunity. The plot isn’t twisty enough to be surprising or satisfying, the dialogue seems cribbed from an old RadioShack catalog, and the performances are lifelessly flat. Occasionally, Mann shows flashes of the sort of springloaded action set pieces he was once hailed for, like a shoot-out during a religious parade. But mostly they just come off as warmed-over parodies from a onetime master aping his own style. C-