All posts by Ben Cahlamer

Desmond Devenish’s “Misfortune” struggles to find it’s footing.

“A lot of holes in the desert, and a lot of problems are buried in those holes.” ~ Nicky Santoro, “Casino”

Cinematic history is replete with B – level budget films; films that the traditional Studio system were unwilling to take a bet on.  Roger Corman and George Romero are probably the most familiar names, while Peter Fonda and Bob Rafelson pushed ultra-low budget movies in the 1960’s and 1970’s with solid stories and characters that audiences could relate to.  Their efforts and changes in technology paved the way for Desmond Devenish to get his debut feature film “Misfortune” out to audiences.

When he’s not behind the lens producing and directing the film, Devenish plays Boyd, an unemployed aimless soul.  His girlfriend Sloan is a diner waitress who wants nothing more than to see Boyd do something with his life, even at one point asking him to take out the garbage which has been piling up in the kitchen for weeks.

Boyd learns from an old family friend that Mallick is about to be paroled.  Years ago, Mallick and Boyd’s dad, Roman, tried to do a deal for a small cache of diamonds.  Roman ended up dead and Mallick ended up in prison, but no one knows where the diamonds ended up.  With Mallick out for revenge, Boyd works with his street pal Russell, a cat and mouse chase across the Sonoran Desert ensues.

Where Devenish succeeds is in his casting choices.  Xander Bailey, who co-wrote the screenplay with Devenish played the ultra-suave Russell maintaining an even temper, an asset when certain situations throughout the film need diffusing.  Jenna Kanell pays Janel quite effectively.  However, once the story picks its pace up, she blended a little too much into the background.  This might have been intentional, but it didn’t serve her character effectively. Watching Boyd and Russell, I couldn’t help but recall Andy and Billy from Rob Weiss’ “Amongst Friends”:  two young punks who want to be street thugs, but don’t have the resolve to see their deals through.

Nick Mancuso plays Roman, who is only on the screen for a few minutes.  The confrontation between he and Kevin Gage’s Mallick at the opening of the movie really packs a punch.  Mancuso will be familiar to audiences as Tom Breaker, the CIA director in “Under Siege” and “Under Siege 2.”

Kevin Gage played Mallick with the same relentlessness that he gave us as Waingro in Michael Mann’s “Heat.”  Performance – wise, both Mancuso and Gage really took the film to the next level, but they couldn’t carry it.

Filmed on location in the Tucson suburb of Tanque Verde, Seth Johnson’s cinematography truly expands the scope of the film, giving it an epic quality.  It helped to capture the essence of the chase nature of the film.

Devenish’s script is a familiar, yet well – told story with Mann’s story telling sensibilities and Scorsese’s influences including “Goodfellas” and “Casino.”  Unfortunately, the story doesn’t expand beyond its boundaries.  The challenge is that most of the characters are so flat that when some of the reveals happen, you aren’t invested in them enough to care.

“Misfortune” is now playing in a limited theatrical release.

Bong Joon-ho’s Okja is full of heart and depth.

Four years ago Bong Joon-ho surprised us with his astounding Snowpiercer, giving us a dystopian future in which the entire world was contained on a train.  It had a limited theatrical release and those that were able to catch it, were treated to an out of this world experience.

Bong has returned in full force with his latest adventure Okja which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival this year.  Netflix acquired the rights prior to the Film Festival with Plan B producing.

The film opens in 2007 with Bong’s perennial favorite, Tilda Swinton as Lucy Mirando having just taken over as CEO for Mirando, the multinational agro-chemical company.  Amid a growing scandal, Lucy pledges to the world that she will turn the company around with a special super pig which they have been breeding.  Twenty-six of them will be distributed around the world to be raised with the goal of having a contest to crown the biggest and best pig 10 years later.

Ten years later, Mija and her grandfather, Heebong have been steadfastly raising Okja when they are visited by zoologist and Mirando spokesperson Dr. Johnny Wilcox.  Wilcox has been on a global journey to crown the biggest super pig.  Mija, played by Ahn Seo-hyun, is suspicious of Wilcox’s purpose while Heebong, played by Byun Hee-bong understands all too well the purpose of the visit.  And when she is taken away, Mija follows Okja, meeting some interesting people along the way.

I want to get this out of the way, first:  I am not a fan of Netflix’s original content strategies; I don’t care for their exploits as a company to bring content to the masses and I really wish they work to bring their content to multiple formats rather than focusing on their subscriber base.  That’s a discussion for another article.

Ironically, I couldn’t help but to put myself in Mija’s shoes trying to fight the ever-changing tides of media distribution, much the same way as she struggled to find Okja and return her home.  This was never more apparent than in the overhead scene featuring Mija in a brightly colored purple jacket, going with the flow of the Soul rush hour foot traffic.  As she gets to the top of the stairs, bathed in sunlight, she turns and walks down the stairs, going against the grain.

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The love and care Bong gave to this film is evident from its opening frame to its [first] closing frame.  From the mountainous forests of Korea to the underground subways of Soul to the streets of New York City, Darius Khondji’s cinematography is absolutely first rate.  It’s too bad that I had to enjoy it on a 13 – inch screen instead of a 40 – foot-wide theater screen, though the detail was not lost on me.

Bong’s strengths as a story teller are steeped in rich, nuanced characters.  It’s difficult not to love Ahn’s understated approach to Mija as she struggles to cope with a world she does not understand; our moral compass, her determination is on her sleeves as much as her heart is.  Byun’s Heebong tries to stop her, knowing what awaits her and Okja.  Tilda Swinton is frighteningly hilarious as the scheming Lucy Mirando, a miss-goodie too shoes and her twin sister, Nancy, who is so morally bankrupt that she will stop at nothing to keep the engine moving forward.

Where Swinton’s outbursts are controlled, Jake Gyllenhaal’s Dr. Johnny Wilcox’s deranged rambunctiousness radiates.  During a crucial staff meeting, where Mirando is scheming her way to recover from a PR nightmare, Wilcox tries to remind her that he is the face of the company which she dismisses instantly.  The dejected Wilcox plots his own scheme to try and outdo Lucy.

Paul Dano plays Jay, the leader of the animal rights group Animal Liberation Front (ALF) trying to expose Mirando for what it is.  Dano’s character was meant as a bridge between Korea and America, guiding us through the narrative and while I thought his performance was very good, the character and the ALF function was unnecessary.  Mija could have and did achieve the same objective without the ALF.

The script by Bong and Jon Ronson (The Men Who Stare at Goats) works on multiple levels.  Mija’s interactions with Okja mirror Dr. Grant’s interactions when he leans on the Brachiosaur to hear it breathe in Jurassic Park:  they are both astonished and connected to the creatures they’re trying to protect.  Swinton shines in her roles and Gyllenhaal was cloyingly sweet. The story felt disjointed, due in part to the inclusion of the ALF.  Dano’s performance was good, but it felt like an afterthought.

Okja as a CGI character was gorgeous to look at, up close.  When seen at a distance or in the processing center towards the end of the movie, the CGI look came through loud and clear, becoming a distraction.

None of these concerns should dissuade you from checking out this timely tale.  I’d tell you to go to a theater to see it, but Netflix has seen to it that you can only watch it on their streaming service.  That aside, Bong Joon-ho’s Okja deserves all the recognition in the world.  It is a great accomplishment.

Top Ten of 2017, so far . . . .

It’s crazy to think that half of 2017 has gone by.  It’s crazier to think that I’ve seen approximately 210 movies since January and 190 of those films have been in a theater.  April was an exceptionally busy month with the Phoenix Film Festival and, as you guessed, I am the Alamo Drafthouse’s second favorite customer.

What’s even crazier is that a Netflix original film has made my Top 10 list. Yes, be shocked.  Very shocked.  Several titles don’t have a distributor yet and some will release later this summer.

Without further ado, here is my Top Ten of the first half of 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10. Okja; directed by Bong Joon-ho, Netflix – A multi-national company coming to grips with a PR disaster is full of quirky characters and an off-beat story that is sure to please everyone. The heartfelt story misses some beats, but Bong’s strength is in his characters and for that reason it is recommended. Now streaming on Netflix and playing in NYC.

9. The Lovers; directed by Azazel Jacobs, A24 – The film debuted at Tribeca this past April to wide acclaim. Debra Winger and Tracy Letts play a dispassionate married couple on the verge of divorce. As they come to terms with their future lives apart, they find they have more in common than either realized.  Funny and heartfelt, Jacobs’ story is a strong indictment on the state of marriage and families and is recommended.  Available on VOD starting July 25th from Amazon.

8. Buster’s Mal Heart; directed by Sarah Adina Smith, Well Go USA – Sarah Adina Smith’s sophomore theatrical effort is set around the turn of the Millennium; this surreal mystery film features Rami Malek (USA’s ‘Mr. Robot’) in dual roles as Jonah and as Buster questions more than it answers. Buried deep within the questions, one is rewarded with a plethora of answers. Co-starring DJ Qualls, who made his mark in teen comedies of the early aughts, the local Alamo Drafthouse featured this film along with an insightful Q&A with the director.  It is available now on Amazon VOD and will be released on Blu-ray and DVD on July 18th.  Seek out the Inversion for yourselves.

7. Baby Driver; directed by Edgar Wright, TriStar Pictures/Sony – Wright who is known for his quirky Cornetto Trilogy (The World’s End, Hot Fuzz, and Shaun of the Dead) brings us an homage to pulp 70’s cinema with his latest film, Baby Driver. Featuring an all-star cast with Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Jon Hamm, Jon Bernthal, Jamie Foxx, Lily James, Eiza Gonzalez, this mixture of music and visual imagery is one of the most original films to hit screens this year. Now playing in theaters, I can’t recommend this film enough.

6. The Midnighters; directed by Julian Fort, The Midnighters – Making its appearance at this year’s Phoenix Film Festival, Fort took home that festivals’ Best Screenplay Award, and he deserved it. Featuring Leon Russom as an aged safe cracker, he now has to cope with life on the outside. Infused with the essence of Michael Mann, the film holds no punches as we see the hardened Victor stuck at a crossroads.  Peppered with amazing supporting characters, this film is a gem on the festival circuit and it’s only a matter of time before it gets picked up for distribution.

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5. The Big Sick; directed by Michael Showalter, FilmNation, Lionsgate/Amazon Studios – I am a sucker for romantic comedies and this true life story of Pakastani stand-up comedian Kuamail Nanjiani and his courtship of Emily is no exception. The story by Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon is heartfelt, intelligent, and witty and the supporting cast of Ray Romano, Holly Hunter, Adeel Akhtar and Anupam Kher round out this 21stcentury romantic story for the ages. It made its debut at Sundance this year where Amazon picked it up for a record $12 million and is co-distributing it with Lionsgate.  It also won the Audience Award at this year’s SXSW.  Now in a limited theatrical release it opens wide on July 14th.

4. War for the Planet of the Apes; directed by Matt Reeves, Twentieth Century Fox – For a franchise that will celebrate its fiftieth anniversary in 2018, Fox has managed to capitalize on an out of this world struggle between man and ape. In a trilogy that started with 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes, continued with Matt Reeves’ Dawn of the Planet of the Apes in 2014. Now, two years later, in War for the Planet of the Apes we see Caesar warring with the remaining band of humans while at the same time, he is fighting his own demons. Releasing on July 14th, audiences are in for a visual and sonic treat.  Make sure to check this out on the biggest screen with the loudest sound.  You won’t be disappointed.

3. Dave Made a Maze; directed by Bill Watterson, Gravitas Ventures – Making its appearance at this years’ Slamdance Film Festival, Watterson’s quirky adventure finds our hero has built a maze. The trouble is that he’s become trapped in his own device and his friends, who he warns not to come after him, do so. Part Goonies, part mad house and all fun, this film also became an after – hours highlight of the Phoenix Film Festival.  The film was able to secure a distributors and I encourage everyone to run to theaters in August to catch this, if you dare.

2. The Lost City of Z; directed by James Gray, Plan B Entertainment, Amazon Studios/Bleecker Street – The second film in my top 10 to feature outstanding cinematography from Darius Khondji, Gray’s stunning story of Percey Fawcett’s adventures in to the Brazilian rainforests is an exercise in patience where the viewer is rewarded with the aforementioned cinematography and a cast that is second to none, featuring Charlie Hunnam (in his second release of 2017), Robert Pattinson, Sienna Miller, Angus Macfayden, Ian McDiarmid and in a second cameo of 2017, Franco Nero. The film sat with Paramount for six years and was finally picked up by Amazon, which released it theatrically via Bleecker Street where it sadly underperformed. The film is currently available for sale through Amazon streaming and will be available on Blu-ray on July 11th.  I cannot recommend this film enough.

1. Land of the Little People; directed by Yaniv Berman, Fresco Films –  Berman’s first narrative film is very much in line with his previous short films; the story revolves around four children who fight two military deserters for their territory where the violence is unrelenting, even up to the final frame. From what I understand, the film is an homage to Lord of the Flies, which I have not seen; I related it more to Rob Reiner’s Stand by Me. It serves as a punch in the gut, a wake-up call to the every-day struggles that other societies in the world face. This film has screened at multiple film festivals over the past year, including the Phoenix Film Festival where it won Best Picture and Director in the World Cinema category.  I very much hope more people get to see this important film; I cannot recommend it enough.

We’d love to hear from you.  What you have you seen and what has made your top list so far?

The Bad Batch

Directed by: Ana Lily Amirpour

Written by: Ana Lily Amirpour

Starring: Suki Waterhouse, Jason Momoa, Keanu Reeves, Jim Carrey, Jayda Fink, Giovanni Ribisi, Diego Luna

I’m going to be up front.  I have not seen Ana Lily Amirpour’s freshman directorial effort, A Girl Walks Alone at Night.  This set me up for her sophomore effort, The Bad Batch with no expectations.  No worldly experience I’ve had could have truly prepared me for this film

Although Amirpour’s script doesn’t define what time this story is set, we know that society has gotten tough on crime; enough that a crime will see you banished to the most hellacious place on earth.  The film opens up with no visuals, only voices coming from all directions.  We’re meant to be disoriented as her prison ID is tattooed on Arlen, who we learn really quickly can defend herself.

But, how do we survive in a desert wasteland?

Armed with only a few days-worth of rations and a flyer guiding her to “Comfort,” Arlen sets out on her journey.  Before we can discover what “Comfort” is, she is ambushed by two of her fellow inmates, literally paying the price for letting her guard down; something she learns not to do again.

Amirpour’s script is full of visual details brought to life through Lyle Vincent’s camerawork, which is first rate.  As we struggle to get our bearings, whether in the deep desert, the airplane shell that makes up someone’s home, or within the confines of Comfort, his use of the 2.39:1 frame paints a wide, desolate image, conveying all of our characters’ struggles.  The tracking shots alone are worth the price of admission.

What’s most interesting is the characters and how they are used to convey the true nature of the film, the “haves” and “have-nots”.  Deeper than that, each actor’s nuance, body language, and several well-placed pop music tracks help to convey their status in life.  Dialogue is kept to a minimum.

Suki Waterhouse was perfectly cast as Arlen.  Though she had to be more upright and determined than her real-life persona, she is the perfect foil for Jason Momoa and his Miami Man character, someone you would not want to cross: he means business.  His number one priority is his daughter Honey, played by Jayda Fink.  When she disappears, we are made to realize that he will stop at nothing to find her all with looks.  Arlen and Miami Man’s situations very much lead them down the proverbial Adam and Eve path.

Two other main characters in the film, the Hermit, who is the audience’s silent guide, is played by Jim Carrey.  He disappeared into his role so much, that the first time I saw the movie, I couldn’t recognize him; he is that good.  Giovanni Ribisi plays The Screamer, who is imprisoned like the rest of the inmates, but his imprisonment is in his mind as much as his environment; stuck trying to remember what life was like on the outside, searching for freedom while being the life of the party, going with the flow.

This leaves us with Keanu Reeves’s character, the very visage of Hugh Heffner, right down to the pipe and the robe, The Dream.  In an eloquent manifesto, The Dream asks Arlen who provides the plumbing, to which she answers, “you do.” The Dream is the one who makes Comfort possible, he makes us forget our cares and worries, and releases us from our internal imprisonment; The Dream will take care of our needs, even laying the seed for future dreamers.  Reeve’s take on the character, though convincing, is far too much of a parody of Heffner to be taken seriously.

A lot of the narrative is implied, not directed toward the audience; something very rarely seen these days.  For some, this might stretch the boundaries Amirpour intended. The marriage of the visuals and the pop tracks convey characters’ emotions so effectively, that we don’t need the dialogue.  Does the film drag as a result of it?  Perhaps.  The film starts out very strongly and wanes towards the end.

Drawing from Escape From New York and Mad Max,  Amirpour’s style is fresh, achieving the black comedic effect she was going for.  Both films present dystopian images of one possible future, using visuals to convey their points where the “haves” and “have nots” fight over every last resource.  Here, the characters are just as much a part of the film’s fabric as are the visuals.

Now in a limited theatrical release, on VUDU and coming soon to Netflix, Amirpour successfully delivers a taught visual feast or famine experience.

Editorial: When navigating an asteroid field, never tell Kathleen Kennedy the odds.

Forty-eight hours ago, the social media world went ablaze with the news that director-duo Chris Miller and Phil Lord were dismissed from their untitled Han Solo origin movie assignment amid creative differences with Lucasfilm prexy, Kathleen Kennedy.

Principal photography began in February at London’s Pinewood Studios and much had already been completed with Miller and Lord at the helm.  According to their press release via Deadline on Tuesday, Lucasfilm plans to stick to their May, 2018 release date.  Many questions have been asked and much speculation has occurred about what those ‘creative differences’ might have been.

According to a release by Polygon today, those creative differences might have been between producer-scribe Lawrence Kasdan and the directors, who it was claimed set out to make their own film, not necessarily a Star Wars film.  It seems they were brought on by Kennedy to bring a comedic touch.  But, Miller and Lord are more well-known to their fan base as a comedy duo, not a dramatic duo with a comedic touch.  Although their efforts were completely collaborative, it was apparent that the studio was not getting the film they thought they were.  “Not wanting to part ways with the man who has helped define the voice of Star Wars, the Lucasfilm team decided to pursue a director who would abide by Kasdan and the studio’s vision.”

More important on the minds of the fandom was who was going to replace Lord and Miller.

Variety mentioned on Tuesday that Oscar-winning director Ron Howard was in the running.  And when it was officially announced this morning, the internet went up in flames once again.

According to IMDB, Howard has 42 directorial credits to his name, including the untitled Han Solo film.  He won Best Picture with producing partner Howard Grazer for A Beautiful Mind and was nominated for Director and Picture, along with Grazer and Eric Fellner for 2008’s engrossing Frost/Nixon.

With his caliber, I would have thought that the world would have embraced his new directorial assignment, but it seems that it was anything but.  Many people I heard from wanted the Lord/Miller vision and don’t believe that Howard has it within him to bring this picture to fruition.

There was also concern voiced about how much of the film would be reshot.  According to Variety on Tuesday, the film is still in production with several weeks of re-shoots that have been in the planning stages for quite some time.

The fan boy in me has the same questions on my mind, but realty must give way – this is a business.  Disney is in the business of making money for its shareholders and has entrusted Kathleen Kennedy to steer the ship.  Kasdan, who has been involved with the franchise since The Empire Strikes Back really does have his finger on the pulse of what makes Star Wars so great.

Is it enough to simply have the pulse of a forty-year-old franchise?

I don’t think it’s a secret that I wasn’t a fan of Rogue One and that I’ve needed to watch The Force Awakens a couple of times to finally warm up to it.  Yes, they are Star Wars and they carry George’s vision forward, so I have respect for what they are.  But they also felt too formulaic with characters that we’ve seen before in many other universes (yes, I’m looking at you MCU).

Scott Mendelson over at Forbes has an interesting premise that I agree with. “In order to be all they can be, and frankly that includes hiring writers and directors who aren’t all young(ish) white guys, the Star Wars Story films have to be able to afford to fail.” My impression of the Star Wars Story origin films was that they were meant to be bold and brash, much like the original Star Wars was in 1977.

When George Lucas pitched his Star Wars in the 1970’s no established studio wanted to take a risk on his story, despite having established himself with American Graffiti and THX-1138.  We seem to be in a similar quandary today, where established directors with completely different visions for now-established characters are shown the exit because they don’t fit with the overall vision.

Mendelson makes another great point: “…as tempting as it might be to look at Kathleen Kennedy as a micromanaging producer who wants to make every Star Wars into A) her own vision of what that might look like and B) similar in tone and content to The Force Awakens, it is her reputation on the line.”

Kennedy has had a long-standing personal and working relationship with George Lucas.  She understands what this universe needs and I don’t believe she would allow it to fail.  At the same time, she needs to be willing to take risks.

Lord and Miller were definitely the risks this franchise was looking for.  They have their own built-in fan base who would have come to see this film in droves.  Yet, they weren’t necessarily fans of Star Wars and that’s where the path diverges.  The long term viability of the franchise could have been put in jeopardy.

Ron Howard, who gave us the amazing Rush, Edtv, Apollo 13, Night Shift, Splash, Parenthood, Backdraft and Willow has big shoes to fill as no other director has been asked to step in so late in to a project.  Given his impressive resume, I am confident that he can carry this movie forward.

“I’m taking an awful risk, Vader.  This had better work.” While this is still a risk for Kennedy, it is not the same level risk as Tarkin’s was by placing the homing device on the Millennium Falcon. My confidence level in this film has not changed.  With Howard at the helm, I believe Lord and Miller’s vision will be retained and that their influence in the script will give us the light touch we’re looking for.  Of course, I’m one blogger with a limited voice.  What do I know?

Did I mention that Ron Howard played the lead role of Steve in George Lucas’s American Graffiti along with Harrison Ford?

The Force does work in mysterious ways.

Review: Michael Mann’s subversive ‘Blackhat’ is uniquely familiar.

In the past, if you wanted to steal money, you would hire a professional safe cracker or you might grab a few ski masks and AK-47’s to rob a bank in broad daylight.  In those instances, people didn’t get hurt as a result of the stolen money, only institutions.

Today, sophisticated criminals use the digital world to do their dirty work – hackers and network specialists hide their trails among the 1’s and 0’s; the bits and bytes of data.  If you’re good enough, you might even be able to affect the course of every day goods and services, thus affecting everyday people.

If both of these scenarios sound like the basis of any number of Michael Mann’s films, you’d be absolutely correct.  And, while we pay homage to Thief and Heat, we must acknowledge his foray into the digital underworld with Blackhat.

Inspired by the Stuxnet computer worm, Mann worked with former editor turned screenwriter Morgan Davis Foehl to deliver a taut, if somewhat glacially-paced thriller.  Chris Hemsworth plays Hathaway, an imprisoned hacker who is furloughed when a nuclear reactor overheats and a stock exchange is hacked, causing soy futures to rise.  Hathaway’s former college roommate, Chinese captain Chen Dawai played by Leehom Wang discovers that Hathaway’s code was used to infiltrate the various affected systems.  Viola Davis plays FBI Agent Carol Barrett.

Foehl’s script is steeped in rich characters and locations that span the globe while Mann, true to his form, is authentic to his subject matter maintaining his tried and true style of filmmaking.  The result is a thriller that modern audiences can relate to.

Hemsworth’s casting was criticized at the time of the film’s release, suggesting that he looked too good to be a hacker.  However, he carries the narrative and his magnetic attraction to Chen Lien (Tang Wei), Chen Dwai’s sister, is as strong as Eady’s relationship with McCauley in Heat, Isabella and Crockett’s relationship in Miami Vice or Jessie’s relationship with Frank in Thief – each of these relationships are just as dynamic and as important to the overall story.  Mann chose to use Lien here as much as he used Isabella in Vice; each a fundamental reason why our main protagonists continued on to their logical conclusions.

If there were any criticisms here, they would be leveled at the antagonist, Sadak played by Yorick van Wageningen.  Although he was vindictive enough to have cooked up the plan, his motives were not well-laid out, though they are understood.  Sadak is not the anti-hero we are used to seeing and there is not the same dynamic between he and Hathaway, giving us only glimpses of threats under the murkiness of the Internet.  Perhaps, this is the film’s genius in that today’s society can very easily hide behind a firewall, never meeting another real person, releasing threats with just the stroke of a couple of keys.

For dramatic purposes, that theory holds water.  But we need meat and potatoes, people.

Where McCauley had a dynamic relationship with Vincent Hannah or Vincent had with Max, the virtual dynamic here is nowhere near as strong as the aforementioned visual dynamics.  For Blackhat, the visual dynamic is laid between Hathaway and Kassar (Ritchie Coster), Sadak’s henchman who also operates in the shadows, but is more representative of the worldly threat.  And, this is the film’s major downfall.  The story could not balance all three relationships.

Stuart Dryburgh carried on the photo-realistic look that permeates Mann’s films, similar to Dion Beebee’s work in Miami Vice and even more reminiscent of Beebee’s and Paul Cameron’s work in Collateral where the colors are oversaturated and the image is frenetically on the move, almost as if they smeared Vaseline on the edges of the lens and paned the camera rapidly.  The use of 2.35:1 really lent a global perspective to the film, becoming a character of its own.

Harry Gregson-Williams and Atticus Rose each contributed to the film’s score.  Reportedly, Mann abandoned Gregson-Williams’ score almost completely favoring Rose’s despite both getting screen credit.

I saw the film when it hit theaters in 2015 and I was not initially a fan. Like any good Mann film, I gave it the benefit of the doubt.  FX recently debuted a director’s cut of the film which makes one major change in the film’s timeline, but doesn’t take or add any additional scenes.  The change does improve the flow of the film.

Blackhat is a unique entry in Mann’s collection of film, authentic to its core while carrying his familiar themes.  Despite my earlier misgivings, it is better than I remember and is a worthy addition to his body of work.