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Hot Seat Review:  A cyber-thriller overstuffed with every outdated trope related to the genre- Cinema express

Hot Seat Movie Review:  A cyber-thriller overstuffed with every outdated trope

The title is a challenge to the audience; we are made to sit on this metaphorical hot seat and are made to try and wring out our attention for the film's entire runtime

Published: 15th November 2022

Hot Seat is a thriller where an ex-hacker (Kevin Dillon) is made to sit on a hair-trigger bomb attached to his seat and is forced to hack top-tier banking institutions for money. You don’t have to know anything about hacking, coding, or even computers to know that the makers had no interest in understanding how hacking works. The film opens with a bombing and a couple of streets away our protagonist is seen jogging. Startled by the sound of the explosion he half-turns to look at the smoke and then wheels around and goes about his business. The film is replete with unintentionally chuckle-worthy moments like these. It is not that we expect the protagonist to run towards the explosion but the unintentional hilarity stems out of the haphazard editing and the awkward choice of framing for the scene. 

Director: James Cullen Bressack

Cast: Kevin Dillon, Mel Gibson, Shannen Doherty, Michael Welch, Eddie Steeples

During the early 2000s, when people had sparse knowledge about how computers worked, the impact of computers on every aspect of modern life was on a steady rise. The filmmakers who wanted to capture this impact on camera were struggling to do so because nothing like that was ever captured visually before in history. You could write a gripping scene about a gang of thieves plotting their way into a casino but how would you thrill an audience by showing someone sitting alone in a room and transferring truckloads of money by clicking away on a computer? This gave way to a lot of wonky attempts at portraying hacking in the early 2000s, even successful films failed at this. Now, at a time when series and films like Mr. Robot(2015) and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo(2011), are being lauded for finally portraying cyberspace realistically, films like Hot Seat slap us with scenes that give us unwarranted nostalgia from two decades ago.

Oscar-winner Mel Gibson plays a bomb expert who holds the countenance of a man waiting in line at a bank. The only action he gets to do is run up a flight of stairs and get shot twice in the arm towards the end. There is no doubt that Mel Gibson is a terrific performer and we have seen him at his absolute best before which is why it looks like he is deliberately phoning in a bad performance. Hacking cliches are not the only thing the film attempts to reanimate from two decades ago, Hot Seat also employs a sordid amount of buddy-cop tropes that are so watered down that it feels like it was written by someone who just learned what a buddy-cop trope was and then immediately wrote dialogues filled with said tropes.

The film is loaded with scenes where the actors are performing as if they are not convinced by the writing or even their own performances. For example, there is a scene where the police chief (Shannen Doherty) has to look up at an explosion at a building, and just the way it was shot, edited, and performed tells us clearly that she is looking up at nothing. The spectacular failure to convince us with such a simple scene, a scene we would hardly notice in an average film, makes us appreciate the hard work that goes into making a competent film. Hot Seat is the darkest night that brings out the luster of the faintest of stars.

The title is a challenge to the audiences; we are made to sit on this metaphorical hot seat and are made to try and wring out our attention for the film's entire runtime. 

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