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With: Jesse Eisenberg, Alexander Skarsgård, Michael Mando, Salma Hayek, Sarah Goldberg, Anna Maguire, Frank Schorpion, Johan Heldenbergh, Kwasi Songui, Aiysha Issa
Written by: Kim Nguyen
Directed by: Kim Nguyen
MPAA Rating: R for language throughout
Running Time: 111
Date: 03/15/2019
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The Hummingbird Project (2019)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Cable Sighs

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Though it certainly looks and sounds like fun, this would-be comedy goes through a great many plot mechanics while hardly scratching the surface of its characters, and without ever coming to a point.

In The Hummingbird Project, fast-talking Vincent Zaleski (Jesse Eisenberg) has a million-dollar idea. He convinces his computer genius cousin Anton (Alexander Skarsgard) to quit their jobs at a powerful, high-tech firm, run by the formidable Eva Torres (Salma Hayek), and try to make it happen. The idea requires running a fiberoptic cable underground, straight from Kansas to Wall Street, so that they can have stock market information a millisecond early and make a fortune.

Obstacles begin popping up, including the problem of drilling through a mountain, and buying land from an Amish family. Meanwhile, Anton hasn't quite cracked the problem of subtracting the all-important millisecond from the code. Perhaps worse, Ms. Torres is not about to sit back and watch her former employees eat up her profits.

Written and directed by Kim Nguyen (of the Best Foreign Language Oscar nominee War Witch), The Hummingbird Project initially feels like it's going to have the energetic cleverness and complexity of something like The Social Network or The Big Short. It weirdly feels like it ought to be "based on a true story," but it's actually not.

Despite the obvious similarities to Eisenberg's superb portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg, the movie fails to discover what makes Vincent tick, other than a brief, spoken story about his childhood. (A cancer-related subplot merely feels tacked-on.) Anton, meanwhile, is just an introverted, socially awkward genius, and Eva Torres is just an angry, barking villainess.

The weirdest thing of all is that, in the end, the characters neither win, nor lose. It's a story with no real ending and no purpose; it doesn't leave us with much of an impression. The ending Nguyen does choose, involving an Amish farm, might have meant something if the movie had been pared down and zoomed in on that particular episode. But as it lays, it feels like a hollow gesture.

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