Writer/director Kim Nguyen has assembled a great cast in “The Hummingbird Project”, a “thriller” that who’s plot suffers from acute mediocrity.  The story begins with Vincent (Jesse Eisenberg) and his cousin, Anton (Alexander Skarsgård), leaving the high-frequency trading company they are both employed at.  The firm, run by the effectively ruthless Eva Torres (Salma Hayek) makes its fortune by making stock transactions in the milliseconds before others do it.  Their success relies on quantity, speed, and technology.  Eva relies on her team of socially awkward geniuses to stay ahead of all other competitors.  She knows that the cousins departing together can only mean they have a scheme they’d rather keep to themselves than share with the company.

Their scheme is simple in concept:  Bore a fiber-optic line in a STRAIGHT line from Kansas to the New York Stock Exchange.  By having a completely straight line, that they run, they should be able to retrieve NYSE rates a full millisecond faster than anyone else.  It may not seem like much, but supposedly this will give them an edge to make a profit in the hundreds of millions.   It’s not hard to guess why no one else had ever tried this before, given the straight line would run through Swamp, Mountains, Rivers, and protected land.  The rest of the film is a sequence of problems for the cousins, and their attempts to overcome them.  Complicating things further is Eva’s unending drive to get a step (or two) ahead of them.

The performances of the three leads are what really drives this film. Hayek chews scenery with relish in each of her few scenes.  She’s obviously having fun playing this over the top character, and it’s a shame there’s not more of her.  Eisenberg is great, but the portrayal of his character feels too close to what he did in “The Social Network” as if Vincent is Zuckerberg-light.  But it’s Skarz that takes the acting to another level.  He absolutely disappears in this role, making Anton by far the most likable and interesting character in the movie.

Beyond their performances, there’s not really much to this movie.  It has some enjoyable moments, but none of the emotional beats hit very strongly.  The ending is anticlimactic and somber given the break-neck speed the rest of the movie employes.  For supposedly being a tech-thriller, it’s light on tech, and even lighter on the thrills.

The Hummingbird Project