Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

It’s Summertime which also means it’s Willard Christopher Smith time as the planets biggest movie star gets set to collect yet another paycheck that has so many numbers on it that most consumer brand calculators don’t even have enough digits on the LED screens to count it all. Mister Smith, as well as being the worlds biggest movie star, has also proven to be quite bulletproof when it comes to his films as even his movies that blow rake in our cash by the boatload. We’re talking to you ‘Wild, Wild West’ and to a lesser extent ‘Bad Boys II’. This summer we’re sitting in our comfortable chair in our not so air conditioned Movie Theater, because movie theaters seem to only crank the AC when one complains nowadays, to watch us some ‘Hancock’, which I had heard was bad enough to actually do Will Smith some damage. Well whoever was saying that stuff was wrong again because ‘Hancock’, while certainly a very odd summer blockbuster, will keep Will Smith still on top as the world’s most bankable movie star for at least another couple of years.

When we first meet John Hancock (Smith), he is knocked out on a park bench amidst a rather nice collection of empty liquor bottles sporting a wardrobe that would bring shame to a hobo, and he is in dire need of getting his quo vadis trimmed. A little boy points out to him that there are madmen shooting up the 501, or maybe it’s some other Los Angeles freeway, but I only know the 501, and that the cops sure could use the help of a superhero if one is available. After rudely dismissing the boy and being called an asshole for his trouble, Hancock, with a bottle of Jack in hand, flies into action, spectacularly captures the criminals, albeit with nine million dollars in property damage in the process, prompting the chief of police to loudly implore the drunken, unshaven superhero to keep his ‘help’ to himself.

What Hancock apparently needs is a makeover and this appears to him in the form of Ray Embry (Jason Bateman), a PR agent whose life Hancock had saved, which prompts Ray to invite him to dinner where he meets Ray’s wife Mary (Charlize Theron) and young son Aaron (Jae Head). However, Mary immediately takes a STRONG disliking to Hancock for some reason or another, whereas Hancock has a very odd and unexplainable (for now) attraction to Mary. But Ray has a plan to turn Hancock’s image around by having the reluctant hero go to jail for his property crimes, let the public and the cops see how much he is missed, have him comeback with a fresh shave, trim and costume and curb his asshole tendencies. Naturally the whole ‘going to jail’ thing doesn’t please Hancock to much but he does acquiesce and Ray’s plan plays out just as he envisions. But there is still this thing between Mary and Hancock going on in the background, and who exactly is Hancock and how in the world did he become who he is? All will be answered in due time, more or less.

Loved the concept, not so much the execution. The story of the no account hero who happens to be invincible, takes responsibility for nothing and answers to absolutely no one is unique and fresh as far as movies go. Will Smith plays Hancock brilliantly as one surly ass dude, who only does the hero thing out of some kind forced obligation that even he can’t understand the reasons why. For instance after yet another Hancock mishap and a woman exclaims that she can smell the liquor on his breath and Hancock replies with ‘Because I’ve been drinking bitch!’, that’s our Hancock. Jason Batemen is great as usual as the good hearted PR man who just wants to help the world and he brings his signature humor and charm to the role.

Hancock unapologetically wrecking stuff and Hancock in prison was good stuff, but Hancock on the road to redemption was kind of suspect. One of the reasons for this could have been because at ninety minutes ‘Hancock’ was just too short. The majority of the movie was spent exploring Hancock the asshole which left just a little bit of time to get into the origin of the character, how this origin relates to the Charleze Theron character, attempting to redeem Hancock and then throwing in a lame villain played by Eddie Marsan, who is a great actor, into the mix. All of those elements were kind of dumped together and director Peter Berg’s shaky directing style, which I thought really set off his previous film ‘The Kingdom’, served as more of a distracting irritant here. Put that camera on tripod Pete! As a Superhero movie ‘Hancock’ suffers from some less than stellar special effects, which jaded 21st century audiences have come to expect to be flawless and photorealistic, and the complete lack of a viable villain, which every Superhero movie needs to carry it through.  In addition to this, ‘Hancock’ is also a difficult to movie to categorize as it has action sequences, but isn’t an action film, and it has its funny moments but you can’t call it a comedy.  By the time it concludes it’s pretty clear that we’re watching a melodrama, but as 'Spiderman 3’ showed me, melodrama and Superhero movies are two tastes that don’t always taste great together.

Great actors, great performances, great concept, suspect execution. That’s ‘Hancock’. But seriously, if folks went to see Will Smith in ‘The Legend of Bagger Vance’, then you know they’ll go see him in this movie, a film that had plenty of entertainment value but with so much potential felt like it could have been so much better.

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