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Hancock /

Rated: PG-13

Starring: Will Smith, Jason Bateman, Charlize Theron, Jae Head, Eddie Marsan

Directed by: Peter Berg

Produced by: Michael Mann, Akiva Goldsman, Will Smith, James Lassiter
Written by: Vincent Ngo, Vince Gilligan
Distributor: Sony Pictures Releasing

     From a mere glance at Hancock’s premise on paper, one might be inclined to deem it a solid, if risky proposition for a summer blockbuster. In fact, I firmly believe that the central idea behind the film—a superhero being genetically endowed with his powers and turning into a recluse over them because of ensuing social-estrangement—is the type of thing that we should all be welcoming in Hollywood. The concept behind the film, credited to co-writer Vincent Ngo (Vince Gilligan did a re-write), is truly original and even a little daring; it represents just the kind of artistic gambling that we see all too little of in today’s mainstream cinema. By all means, Hancock should be an exhilarating picture because it’s one that we’ve never quite seen before.

     But the movie takes none of the risks that its lofty background-story assumes. In truth, I think I myself could’ve written a better screenplay out of Ngo’s idea than he did.

     The fact that the first two acts of the movie, which introduce Hancock and his internal-dilemma, are rather captivating (while not great) makes the movie’s ultimate result all the more disappointing. Will Smith leads things off strong with a pitch-perfect—at least by PG-13 standards for a character that deserves an R-rated film—characterization of the titular-hero. Hancock is a badassed, arrogant drunk, but not one without a heart, which makes his pairing with image-consultant Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman, in a bitingly good performance) ideal. Hancock saves Ray from being run over by a train in a standard car-on-tracks debacle, only to have Ray (who is struggling in his career) then return the favor by offering his services as an image-cleaner and PR-assistant. He has Hancock serve some time that he owes in prison, say “Good job” to the failing police-officers at the crime-scenes he must help to fix, and act politely with the press.

     I cannot reveal what ultimately ruins the movie so as to not spoil it for readers who have yet to see it. (Although, for the record, WALL-E and Kung-Fu Panda and even Wanted are better selections to catch this Fourth of July weekend.) I will say, however, that it involves plot-developments concerning Ray’s wife, Mary (Charlize Theron), who secures a solid amount of screen-time during the film’s final thirty minutes. To be completely blunt without giving anything away: Hancock’s third-act is a complete and utter mess. The movie sets up a plot-twist concerning Mary for no apparent reason other than that Ngo and Gilligan saw nowhere to go with the Hancock character himself. This leads to a finale that defies all established logic; there is no explanation for what happens and, as a result, any emotional-connection that viewers forge with the characters over the course of the movie is jeopardized. Had the picture concluded in an apt manner, I might’ve been able to excuse its sappy and out-of-place final scene. As it is, the whole tail end of Hancock is an outright disaster.

     Yes, the picture offers lots of visual spectacle—money buys anything nowadays in Hollywood—and runs a very quick ninety-two minutes. But just about every other summer-picture can boast the same; this should be unconditionally expected from one with such a rich premise and a director of Peter Berg’s (The Kingdom, Friday Night Lights) caliber. That Hancock is such a disappointment is a shame; had the movie been done right, it could’ve been a contemporary summer classic, well in line with Ang Lee’s Hulk, Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report, and M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs. Instead, what we have here, my friends, is a dud.

-Danny Baldwin, Bucket Reviews

Review Published on: 7.2.2008

Screened on: 7.1.2008 at MovieMax Theatres in Carlsbad, CA.


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