Hancock
Director: Peter Berg (The Rundown, Friday Night Lights, The Kingdom)
Writers: Vincent Ngo, Vince Gilligan
Producers: Akiva Goldsman, James Lassiter, Michael Mann, Will Smith
Starring: Will Smith, Charlize Theron, Jason Bateman, Jae Head, Eddie Marsan
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running time: 92 min
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reviewed by Andrew James
      There are movies, flicks, film and cinema. Each of us has their own measure of what precisely each of those values quantify. For me, Hancock definitely falls under the category of movie. Big action, big stars, big effects and a little bit of drama thrown in to keep the movie from getting too stale or too close to the "flick" side of things. For a new take on the superhero genre with a bit deeper of a story, Hancock largely succeeds at what it sets out to do. Although not without some clunkiness along the way.

      John Hancock (Smith) is a rogue super-hero in Los Angeles. Superman strength, skin like steel and of course the ability to take to the skies on a whim. The only one of his kind, he feels ostracized from society and thus resides as sort of a recluse and becomes a binge drinker. But when trouble comes calling, Hancock is always willing to help out; but not before usually causing quite a bit of trouble himself (destroying buildings, tearing up roadways, blowing up vehicles, etc). When one day he saves the life of a go-getter, entrepreneur P.R. rep named Ray (Bateman) from being killed, it sparks an idea in the young idealist's head: make Hancock a better person by representing him as sort of his agent. Ray's first step is to convince this foul mouthed, binge drinking asshole of a superhero to reprimand himself to state prison and go to AA meetings and anger management classes; all the while teaching Hancock about what a real superhero does and how he behaves. It's a struggle, but they both work through it together as best they can - much to the chagrin of Ray's wife Mary played by a Charlize Theron.

      There are several factors that make this movie work when at first glance it seems that it really shouldn't. First and foremost, just the idea alone of a drunken super-hero is the basis for a pretty interesting story that really has endless possibilities for scenarios and plot development because of its originality. Unfortunately Hancock isn't always sure where it wants to go. Is it a comedic romp with some semi-serious moments or is it dramatic, impactful movie that wants the audience to really sympathize with the characters and take everything really seriously? Hancock is both; and to be honest, sudden changes in mood (more than once or twice) can negatively affect this particular writer's feelings about a movie. Just be prepared for a little bit of back and forth in terms of tone and you'll be alright.

      What really works and probably what keeps the movie from failing are the performances from the three leads that carry everything on their proverbial shoulders. Will Smith tends to choose roles that are of little depth other than to look cool and be amusing. Occasionally he'll really show his chops just to remind everyone that he can act (Six Degrees of Separation, Pursuit of Happyness), but for the most part, he's the guy to call on for the fourth of July weekend when you need someone to save the planet from aliens or aliens or bad guys disguised as aliens. With Hancock, Smith has decided he wants to have his cake and eat it too. The character's darker mood swings and inner struggle are very apparent behind Smith, but at the same time, let's be honest, it's still Will Smith and he's still in a super-hero role and he's still quite funny.

      Bateman is a guy who's quickly becoming type-cast. And you know what? I don't mind a bit. He's funny every single time and fills roles like croc shoes. The world needs more Bateman in everything. He just doesn't disappoint and Peter Berg (The Kingdom) seems to already realize this. Then we have Charlize Theron (playing the lovely house-wife); who was the one actor I was angry with the studio for signing, for fear that her tremendous talent would be totally wasted in a supporting role. I needn't have feared. Theron pulls off the role wonderfully, as always, and she's on-screen more than I would've thought. So huge bonus points to the casting director for putting this group together. Each fills their role perfectly and each brings their best to the table. No pay-check performances to be found here.

      The storyline does take some surprisingly sharp corners a couple of times (though these are foreshadowed very nicely - watch for it) and while the mood and tone changes didn't really work for me, the overall story arc itself seems to gel nicely. Hancock's attempts to interact with regular people and where that takes his character as he, and we the audience, begin to discover who he is, who he was and who he is to become. The Frankenstein aspect of the story is handled in a pretty hamfisted manner, but the basis for the idea works alright and again, Smith is able to sell it to us hook, line and sinker.

      I had some problems with a few of the action sequences (and even some of the non-action sequences) with an over abundance of quick edits and lot of shaky cams. Quite a lot of the action was unseeable. In hindsight it wasn't all that terrible, but it is a problem that has to be mentioned.

      A great little departure from the usual, summertime, super-hero movies plaguing us right now and the perfect getaway movie to take in during the long weekend. Nothing that will remembered in years to come and nothing that will likely end up on many people's year-end top ten, but still Hancock is an enjoyable romp at the theater that pretty much everyone can enjoy for what it is.
     


Click "play" to see the trailer:


Links:
IMDb profile
Official Site
Flixster Profile for Hancock


 





andrew@moviepatron.com