Rating: 2.5 stars
It’s such a great concept, you wonder why it hasn’t been done before: A superhero with a bad attitude, one who saves people, but does so reluctantly, who crash lands, leaves a costly mess, and performs his life-saving duties with a snarl. And for a while, Hancock pulls off this concept brilliantly.
For starters, Will Smith makes a great Hancock. This might’ve seemed like a stretch for Smith—an actor who at times seems desperate to be loved (and we, the movie going public, dutifully oblige). But Smith is actually spot-on as the heavy-drinking, anti-social hero. He makes Hancock both funny (because he’s so darn surly) and sad (because he’s misunderstood). And the director, Peter Berg, has a great way with a visual joke (sometimes it’s amusing to just see Hancock help a beached whale by hurling it into the ocean—and promptly capsize a small boat).
Early in the film, Hancock saves an idealistic PR specialist, Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman), from being struck by a train. But instead of applauding Hancock’s heroics, bystanders question his technique. (Might he have saved the city millions of dollars if he had just lifted Ray’s car instead of throwing it?).
Sensing that Hancock needs an image rehabilitation, Ray offers Hancock his services, free of charge. He takes Hancock home to meet his wife (Charlize Theron). He instructs Hancock to serve some jail time (Hancock has many outstanding warrants for destruction of public property). He tells Hancock to start cooperating with the local authorities, and he even gets him to wear a uniform (after all, all superheroes have costumes, right?).
So far, so good. The middle of the film may not be as zippy and hilarious as its beginning, but this rehab portion is still pretty entertaining.
Then we get to Hancock’s third act. It’s rare that a film derails as horribly as Hancock does, but trust me, it does. There’s a plot twist that throws the whole film off kilter—and Hancock goes from hip and funny to overwrought and silly in just a matter of moments. The film leaves you with a bad taste in your mouth.
Oh well. Even if Hancock suffers its own crash landing, it’s still a cut above the average summer blockbuster. It’s been a great summer for action—with Iron Man setting the bar high and The Incredible Hulk and now Hancock landing just beneath it. (Speedracer: you’re already dead to me.) The buzz on Dark Knight is deafening. I, for one, can hardly wait.