A consistently conflicting thriller, whose idiosyncratic excellence accentuates its shortcomings, which are harder to ignore than I would like. Blackhat, if nothing else, exposes the versatility of Michael Mann's style of filmmaking, its curious malleability despite its distinctiveness. It endures yet another change of pace for the director, who finds himself now working with a fast-paced thriller that almost doesn't want to be one. Blackhat's scenario needs to take its time, but by necessity cannot; it remains an unresolved issue whether or not Mann's flippancy with dialogue is a satisfying stylistic quirk or an enervating affectation. Certainly, although the lurid sheen of many of Mann's previous films heightened the sensory experience, the shift to a grittier aesthetic provides Blackhat an interesting texture. You feel you could reach out and touch the grain on the screen, succumb to the enveloping heat and know for yourself the precise nature of every fabric, every surface. Blackhat is almost gratuitously ugly, and that will repel many who watch it, but it intrigued me how Mann and cinematographer Stuart Dryburgh developed their visual scheme under such circumstances. Mann deals with the dumbest stretches in the narrative with the most invention and vice versa, resulting in a film that's never outright terrible, nor outright brilliant - it does mean that he can still surprise us by demonstrating just how good a shootout scene can be, though no amount of directorial flair can distract from the screenplay's regressive gender politics. It's details like those that make Blackhat impossible to love for me, yet by no means a total write-off.