Metacritic (6/10), Letterboxd (3/5), Imdb.com (6/10), TMDB.com (3/5)

With the release of such innovative communications products as the Apple and Android smartphones, questions began to circulate about the future viability of onetime market leader BlackBerry, a line of devices that subsequently went into rapid decline. Ironically, that real-life business world narrative itself raises comparable questions about the viability of a movie that tells the BlackBerry story. Nevertheless, writer-director Matt Johnson’s third feature outing brings the ill-fated account of the rise and fall of this Canadian-made smartphone company in the global telecommunications marketplace. Seeing how the company was run, however, it probably shouldn’t come as any surprise why it ultimately failed – shady financial management, ego-driven unbridled greed, undisciplined employees and constant managerial scrambling to remain competitive, despite some surprisingly savvy marketing aimed at making the BlackBerry an enviable status symbol, especially among business clients. But is this kind of material really sufficiently engaging for a feature film? I sure don’t think so, especially since it’s about a company and product that ultimately flopped. It’s a cinematic exercise akin to “The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight” (1971) trying to take on Silicon Valley giants. The film also gets exceedingly technical at times, making for a film that cyber nerds may find awesomely cool but that casual viewers are likely to see as tedious and confusing. And, by the picture’s second half, with the handwriting on the wall and the parade of unending snafus continuing, it’s difficult to maintain interest in how events unfold and eventually play out. To its credit, this release features some fine performances, most notably by Saul Rubinek, Michael Ironside and Independent Spirit Award nominee Glenn Howerton, as well as an excellent and often-ironic soundtrack. However, in a larger sense, “BlackBerry” also represents a somewhat disconcerting trend in movies that’s gaining traction – films based on the back stories of products and businesses. Besides this offering, 2023 also saw the release of films about sneakers (“Air”), videogame retailing (“Dumb Money”) and even snack foods (“Flamin’ Hot”). While there’s nothing inherently wrong with pictures about business and commerce, these offerings are innately little more than two-hour feature-length commercials for their wares. Indeed, are these commodities becoming our new screen idols? It calls to mind actor Paul Newman’s observation years ago about the emergence of a robot and a shark becoming our new movie icons, but, as different as they were, even they weren’t as shamelessly commercial as these new contenders are. Releases like this should indeed give us all pause to think about what kinds of movies we want to plunk down our hard-earned money to watch.