For “The Hummingbird Project,” a sturdy, involving thriller set in the financial realm, the writer-director Kim Nguyen has cited heady inspirations like Michael Lewis’s book “Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt” (2014) and a Wired magazine article from 2012 on high-speed trading. But strip away the topical trappings and what is left is another variation on the obstacle course tension and male bonding of “The Wages of Fear” — or a dark variation on marathon road-trip goofs such as “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” and “Death Race 2000.”
Vincent (Jesse Eisenberg) and his cousin Anton (Alexander Skarsgard) want to run a fiber-optic cable from Kansas to stock exchange servers in New Jersey, securing a millisecond advantage over other algorithmic traders. To maximize the gain, the cable must run absolutely straight, through property, mountains and water, a colossal engineering job for which they have hired Marc (Michael Mando, from “Better Call Saul”). But their boss (Salma Hayek), soon to be former, spends heavily to stall the private-works effort.
“The Hummingbird Project” may be too committed to its popcorn mechanics to double as a truly brainy exposé, but it pays other dividends. Eisenberg adds unexpected shades of humanity to his lizard persona from “The Social Network,” while a bald, unrecognizable Skarsgard pulls off the difficult feat of being sympathetically antisocial as a coder driven batty by his work. As the geological, financial and personal barriers the cousins face grow increasingly absurd, the movie works up a satisfying sweat.
The Hummingbird Project
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Rated R. Rigging of the system. Running time: 1 hour 50 minutes.
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