Hancock ** 1/2 (out of ****)

Director: Peter Berg
Writers: Vincent Ngo and Vince Gilligan
Cast: Will Smith, Jason Bateman, Charlize Theron, Jae Head, Eddie Marsen
Rating: PG-13 (some intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence, and language)
Running Time: 92 min
Release Date: 7/2/08

Hancock is a satirical superhero movie. Instead of the clean cut Clark Kent/Superman image, the film features John Hancock (Will Smith) as a homeless man who has superpowers. He is aroused from his drunken stupor to intervene in a massive police chase involving a carload of gang bangers blasting away with their submachine guns. As Hancock zooms through the air in pursuit he smashes through large sign over the interstate which falls causing a multi-car pileup. By the time it was over not only were the thugs in custody but Hancock had racked up $9 million in property damage and a lot of bad press.

Meanwhile Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman) is trying to sell his charity plan to companies without much success. While driving home he is caught in a traffic jam with is car over a railroad track. As a train bears down on him, Hancock comes to the rescue by flipping Ray’s car upside down onto another car but out of the way of train. Ray offers to repay Hancock by giving him an image makeover. He also invites him into his home for a spaghetti dinner with his wife, Mary (Charlize Theron), and son Aaron (Jae Head). One senses that Mary is bothered about something. It is this “something” that will in fact wait for the last half of the film to develop.

The film doesn’t play as complete camp. Hancock is potentially facing serious consequences in terms of both criminal charges and lawsuits over his reckless heroics. Of course the police can do little against him because of his superpowers. But, Ray talks Hancock into surrendering and taking his legal medicine. Hancock reads the stereotypical canned statement of contrition and he is led off to prison.

Ray’s plan is simple. With Hancock out of action, crime will spiral out of control. Eventually the authorities will release him so that he can restore order and this will allow Hancock with his new and carefully crafted image to win over the public. A bank robbery and hostage situation lead to the predicted results. Hancock is released to save the day. Ray provides him with traditional tight fitting superhero suit and tells him to be polite to the police and say “Good job officer,” before ending the standoff.

It’s at this point that a major plot twist develops involving Hancock and Mary that I alluded to above. In the final half of the movie, which delves into their background and nature, the film loses momentum and interest. All the fun of the first half is gone and we left with a very uninteresting introspective on the central character. The reformed Hancock is the boring Hancock. This film is certainly far from the best of Will Smith.


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