THE HUMMINGBIRD PROJECT ½
R, 111 mins.
2019, R, 111 mins.
Jesse Eisenberg as Vincent Zaleski / Alexander Skarsgård as Anton Zaleski / Salma Hayek as Eva Torres / Michael Mando as Mark Vega
Written and directed by Kim Nguyen
THE HUMMINGBIRD PROJECT is a new techno-thriller that's about a bunch of industrious conmen that want to secretly install a vast fiber optic cable in the ground running from Kansas to New York that, if successful, will allow them a one millisecond advantage on all other investors in stock exchange transactions, thereby making them rich.
Now, maybe the
term techno-thriller could be used sarcastically in describing this
film, seeing as its premise is not one the initially drums up a
considerable amount of nail biting suspense (at least as far as the
stresses of clandestine country wide construction are concerned).
Having said that, THE HUMMINGBIRD PROJECT emerges as modestly
engaging because of two thanklessly committed lead performances and a
timely theme about how corporations and some unscrupulously greedy
individuals will stop at nothing to gain a fraction of an advantage over
their competition to make a buck.
Set nearly a
decade ago in 2011 (which gives the film an added aura of feeling like
it's based on a true story, even though it isn't), the story opens by
explaining the speed by which information and transactions are completed
between Kansas and the New Jersey based computers of the NYSE: 17
That sounds fast...like...lightning fast.
A hummingbird only takes one millisecond to flap its wings (as
referenced by one character, which helps gives meaning to the film's
title), but to some that's simply not fast enough to get, shall we say, an
illegal edge to make a fortune on the stock market.
This is where entrepreneur and high minded crook Vincent Zaleski
(Jesse Eisenberg) comes in.
He thinks up a fairly ingenious, but highly difficult plan to run
and bury a single line of fiber optic cable from the aforementioned locations
that, with appropriate tinkering, will bring the transition speed down to
He can't do it
alone, though, and decides to enlist in the brilliant tech guru help of
his cousin Anton (an unrecognizable Alexander Skarsgard), who just might
be the only person that could crack the code of re-writing the necessary
software to make Vincent's dream a reality.
The pair, in turn, teams up with Mark Vega (no relation to PULP
played by Michael Mando), who will oversee all of the grunt construction
work to run the cable line.
All of these men are financed by a billionaire business mogul
(Frank Schorpion), who places great pressure of the squad to get the job
done in a timely fashion...or else.
Predictably, they face ample hardships and roadblocks along the way
(which is not assisted by the fact that Anton is a high functioning
autistic man that has his share of bad days), but they also face stiff
competition in the form of Vincent and Anton's former boss (a scenery
chewing Salma Hayek), who obviously wants to beat them at their own
game. She also wants to make them both suffer in immeasurable ways after they
abandoned her and her company, which she perceives as a cowardly act of
Most of the low
key intrigue in watching THE HUMMINGBIRD PROJECT is in witnessing the
litany of obstacles that are placed in Vincent's way.
Obviously, digging a small tunnel over such a vast geographical
area with many barriers (some natural, some man made) leads to Vincent
engaging in some spontaneous out-of-the-box thinking and intuition.
The fiber optic cable tunnel line has to run as straight as
possible, not to mention that it can't run too deep into the ground at the
risk of signal degradation (no more than 10 feet deep).
Evidently, one of the challenges faced is property owners, which
requires Vincent and his squad to use some snake oil salesman-like charm
(along with promises of cash payments) to convince these unwilling
homeowners to play along.
One huge and seemingly impassable obstacle comes in the form of an
Amish community that clearly wants to have nothing to do with Vincent's
scheme, and they can't be bought off either. Then
there's the horrendous environmental rigors as well, like having to drill
and dig through waterways, swamps, and mountains, the latter of which requires
seriously expensive and imported drills to even make a dent.
The FBI is even in on impeding the actions of Vincent et al,
especially when it comes to investigating whether or not Anton has stolen
any tech secrets from his ex-boss's company.
trifecta on display here makes this material really work, and Eisenberg is
in his absolute wheelhouse playing an obnoxiously fast talking businessman
that relishes in stepping over just about anyone to the see his
plan through to successful fruition.
The actor has played numerous versions of this same deplorably
unsympathetic character before, but he's so damn good at it that one is
willing to give him a pass here.
Hayek is also a rather inspired choice as her hostilely
antagonistic businesswoman that's arguably just as ruthless, if not more,
She also makes several threats against Anton's well being
throughout the film, seeing as the code he's using to ensure the 16ms
speeds for his fiber optic plan was originally written while he was under
And speaking of Anton, Skarsgard is a revelation here, bald,
uncoordinated and unbalanced, and usually looking like he just stepped out
of a TWELVE MONKEYS psyche ward, the usually ruggedly handsome actor dials
down his man candy image and instead fully and physically immerses in this
complex genius that's arguably the smartest man in the film, but has great
difficulty maintaining a meaningful conversation with anyone under any
for as rock solid as the performances are as well as the
initially gripping story arc, it's oftentimes hard to overlook how slow
moving and frequently ill focused THE HUMMINGBIRD PROJECT is at times.
There's also a lot of distracting kitchen sink elements that are
hastily thrown into the narrative mixing bowl, with most of them not
really being combined together with much symmetry (beyond the
race-against-the-clock caper elements, the story also throws in odd
moments of comedy and, worst of all, a painfully forced subplot involving
terminal illness that you know will have a deciding influence on the
changing motivations of one character late in the proceedings).
One big nagging flaw is what THE HUMMINGBIRD PROJECT is really
trying to say about technology run amok, slimy Wall Street investment
strategies, and the toxic rise of pure greed in America.
When all is said and done, THE HUMMINGBIRD PROJECT could have been
much more thoughtful as a piece of social and economic satire.
As a strange cinematic cocktail of an offbeat buddy comedy, a high finance drama, and a weird computer thriller, THE HUMMINGBIRD PROJECT is a movie with great potential that never fully pulls itself together as well as it should have. The inspired performances and worth the price of admission alone, and there's some undeniably frightening undertones to the film's premise when it comes to rapidly evolving technology and how that can be abused by the wrong type of people in power in society at the expense of the little people. Overall, THE HUMMINGBIRD PROJECT is a decent VOD rental, but a work that's hard to recommend for immediate theatrical consumption. And most viewers will undoubtedly forget about the film soon after seeing it.
Maybe not a millisecond after exiting the cinema...but soon.