Blackhat (2015)

US / 133 minutes / color / Legendary, Forward Pass, Universal Dir: Michael Mann Pr: Thomas Tull, Michael Mann, Jon Jashni Scr: Morgan Davis Foehl Cine: Stuart Dryburgh Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Tang Wei, Viola Davis, Ritchie Coster, Holt McCallany, John Ortiz, Yorick van Wageningen, Wang Leehom, Christian Borle, Jason Butler Harner, Spencer Garrett, Andy On, Danny Burstein, Archie Kao, Abhi Sinha, Manny Montana, Liang Shi, Kan Mok, Kirt Kishita.

Michael Mann’s movies can sometimes suffer from impenetrable plotting, and indeed the plot of Blackhat is supremely complex, with a large cast of integral characters, yet I found it refreshingly lucid. It’s a technothriller in something approaching the William Gibson mode, although—as arguably befits a screen presentation—with the accent more on the thrill than (except perhaps visually) the techno. I gather this emphasis was even more exaggerated in the trailers, which portrayed Blackhat as essentially a hackneyed action movie; that marketing misstep has been blamed for the offering’s dire performance at the box office. For me, although I have some deep reservations about Blackhat (see below), I also found it compulsively watchable, as much because of its conceptual cleverness as anything else, shootemups and chases included.

Tang Wei as Lien

A hacker uses a type of code known as a remote access tool (RAT) to sabotage a nuclear power station in Hong Kong. Soon afterward, in the US, a variant of that same code is used to manipulate soy prices such that the hacker makes a hefty profit. The Chinese authorities, investigating the power-plant incident, put the matter in the hands of Captain Chen Dawai (Wang), a military cyberneticist who studied at MIT.

Dawai recognizes the basis of the code. He and his MIT roomie and best friend, Nick Hathaway (Hemsworth), devised it for fun many years ago. The hacker—the “blackhat”—must have found it online somewhere and downloaded it before adapting it for their own nefarious use.

Wang Leehom as Dawai

Dawai and Nick are thus the two ideally qualified individuals to spearhead the hunt for the malefactor. Trouble is, Nick’s serving a lengthy sentence for cybercrime . . .

You can guess the next bit. Dawai negotiates with the FBI’s Continue reading

The Drop (2014)

US / 107 minutes / color / Chernin, Big Screen, Ingenious, TSG, Fox Searchlight Dir: Michaël R. Roskam Pr: Peter Chernin, Jenno Topping Scr: Dennis Lehane Story: “Animal Rescue” (2009 in Boston Noir, edited by Dennis Lehane) by Dennis Lehane Cine: Nicolas Karakatsanis Cast: Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, James Gandolfini, Matthias Schoenaerts, John Ortiz, Ann Dowd, Michael Aronov, James Frecheville, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Tobias Segal, Michael Esper, Morgan Spector.

Scripted by Dennis Lehane on the basis of a story by Dennis Lehane first published in an anthology edited by Dennis Lehane (one of the celebrated Placename Noir series published by Akashic), this highly impressive slice of neonoir has, well, Dennis Lehane all over it.

Noomi Rapace as Nadia and Tom Hardy as Bob.

Brooklyn bar tender Bob Saginowski (Hardy) works in a drop bar, so-called because the local mobsters choose a different bar at random every night for receipt of their nefarious takings from all over, figuring that this way the cops are less likely to figure out where the money’s being collected. The bar where Bob works is managed by his much older cousin Marv Sliper (Gandolfini), who lives with Continue reading

American Gangster (2007)

US / 176 minutes (unrated), 158 minutes (rated) / color / Imagine, Relativity, Scott Free, Film Rites, Universal Dir: Ridley Scott Pr: Brian Grazer, Ridley Scott Scr: Steven Zaillian Story: “The Return of Superfly” (2000 magazine article, New York) by Mark Jacobson Cine: Harris Savides Cast: Denzel Washington, Russell Crowe, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Cuba Gooding Jr., Josh Brolin, Ted Levine, Armand Assante, Clarence Williams III, John Ortiz, John Hawkes, RZA, Lymari Nadal, Yul Vazquez, Ruby Dee, Idris Elba, Carla Gugino, Joe Morton, Common, Richie Coster, Jon Polito, Kevin Corrigan, Roger Guenveur Smith, Malcolm Goodwin, Ric Young, Roger Bart, Tip Harris, Kadee Strickland, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Norman Reedus, Melissia Hill, Bari K. Willerford, Skyler Fortgang.

A gangster movie that claims to be based on a true story although, by all accounts, it’s largely an exercise in mythopoeia.

In Harlem in 1968, ruthless yet philosophically inclined, intelligent and often goodheartedly generous gangster Bumpy Johnson (Williams, bizarrely uncredited) dies of heart failure while he and his chauffeur and right-hand man Frank Lucas (Washington) are staring in dismay at the contents of a discount store. Assuming Frank is just a nobody, gangsters like Tango (Elba) move in on Bumpy’s old turf, little realizing they’re up against a criminal genius. It’s not long before Frank hits on the notion of dispensing with the middleman in the heroin racket, instead buying it directly from sources in Southeast Asia and bribing US service personnel to bring the dope into the US aboard military transports returning from the still-raging Vietnam War. His other major import is of his extended family from North Carolina to be his employees/partners, a job that his brothers willingly take on after they witness him coldbloodedly murdering the arrogant Tango on a crowded Harlem sidewalk.

American Gangster - In search of a drug supplier

Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington) goes in search of a drug supplier.

At the same time, Newark cop Richie Roberts (Crowe) is earning himself the undiluted loathing of the rest of his PD through being honest. When he and partner Javier J. Rivera (Ortiz) come across nearly $1 million in unmarked bills and Continue reading