- nothing to see here. Just keep raking.
The premise is clever: a super hero with a drinking problem doesn't know who he is or where he comes from. Carrying a truckload of problems, he doesn't really enjoy saving people's lives. He just does it because either he can and/or he's the only one who can. He makes a sloppy exercise out of saving the day, chucking a beached whale out to sea only to hit a sailboat....skewering a car of bad guys on the Capitol Records building... you get the point. Hancock is pretty much despised for all the chaos he causes - the exception being Ray Embry (Jason Bateman), a PR exec that Hancock saves from getting pulverized by a train. In return, Ray befriends the hero and attempts a marketing strategy makeover. Ray brings Hancock home for counseling and to meet his wife, Mary (Charlize Theron), who is busy with her own life and doesn't approve.
Will Smith is a charismatic actor, bringing life to what would normally be a spoof-oriented role. He also plays a believable drunk with some genuine talent. With Theron, though, I wondered for the longest time why she was even in this movie, but she does manage to prove her worth. Bateman is an entertaining guy in a smarmy and witty kind of way, although fairly one-dimensional.
Peter Berg, the director who brought us Very Bad Things, manages to hold on to a smidgeon of semi-dark comedy, co-mingling with the sanitized cuteness. He keeps an even keel on the performances with a whole lot of bendable leeway in the script and plot department. The film is shot with handheld flair, which is strange for an ultra-slick superhero movie, but effective nonetheless. Actor/Director Berg used a lot of close ups, reminiscent of the Tony Scott school of cinematography where claustrophobic storytelling is literally "their face in your face" cinema. Sometimes it works, other times it becomes annoying because a character's entire head takes up the screen. We get it. It's larger than life. Change the direction.
At one point Hancock, in order to dismiss a reputation for being above the law, goes to jail willingly. Knowing he could break out anytime provides moments of decent humor. Hancock, a homophobe and an alcoholic, has abandonment issues, but jail therapy does nothing for him. Another slapstick device is the gratuitous one-liner repetition that's a lot like what's found in the Terminator movies or what the Get Smart redux should've had.
The film's borderline cute moments thankfully dissipate quickly. And it had intermediate darkness that I would've liked to have seen explored more. Near the end, it gets a little dodgy as to which way it might go. A pause in the action leaves a gap to fill between a believable ending with serious reality coming into play, or opting for a nice superhero ending complete with sequel... let's just say the one I was rooting for didn't win.
All in all it could've been a lot worse. This film had decent potential, but plummets after the initial novelty wears off.
Starring Will Smith, Charlize Theron, Jason Bateman.
Director: Peter Berg. Rated PG-13