Nick Hathaway (Chris Hemsworth) has been incarcerated for many years, prohibited from connecting to the internet due to assorted hacking “crimes”. He is brilliant and bitter but suddenly very much in demand by the government.
As the original creator of the core code, he is the only person that can help find the man responsible for a Chinese nuclear power plant meltdown, possibly a precursor to worse tragedies.
Luckily the Chinese military intelligence officer (Leehom Wang) chosen to pursue this shadowy prey, is westernised and happens to be Hathaway’s old MIT buddy. He also has a beautiful sister (Wei Tang). Fortunately she is also a noted Network Engineer and can tag along on the quest.
The film moves to America and then various Asian locations including Hong Kong, Malaysia and Indonesia, as the team is aided and hampered in equal measure by their US governmental handlers. Stern but fair Carol (Viola Davis) keeps everything this side of the law and protects further security breaches, together with the allocated federal marshal, ensuring Hathaway’s GPS ankle bracelet stays put.
Whilst there is a cursory attempt to add some actual cybercrime themes into the story, noted director Michael Mann abandons all such pretext early in the film. The story then collapses into one long chase with admittedly competently staged urban gun battles with SWAT teams and disposable henchman.
Dialogue is limited and difficult to discern at times, picture quality is presumably deliberately hi-def grainy with much hand-held camera work, all intended to add to a sense of immediacy and veritas to the story.
Characterisation is almost non existent, a love affair appears from nowhere and offers a cynically clichéd method to drive the story along and add some gravitas later in the story.
Mann creates no sense of tension, the milieu of cybercrime and hacking is a rich resource and yet is entirely wasted here. Placing characters in cinematically shot private jets and helicopters does not create drama of itself, something Mann has not learned from his previously under developed “Miami Vice” movie.
Davis and Hemsworth emerge with reputations intact but they are given nothing to work with and fault must lie with the writer (Foehl) and director. Hemsworth tries but appears as confused as the audience as to his motivations and mission aims.
The closing sequence makes no sense and when the credits finally roll, they may come as a surprise to the audience. One hopes the film that was pitched and funded cannot possibly have resembled result on the screen.
With a budget of $70m and a worldwide return of $17m this must be considered a serious disappointment for all concerned.
What should have been a “torn from the headlines” heart stopping cyberthriller, has instead morphed into limp, muddled disaster of a film from noted director Michael Mann.
A colossal disappointment and arguably not worth two hours of your time.