Hancock is a superhero movie which holds a more interesting concept compared to its comic book inspired contemporaries, for while those films hold the usual tales of heroes with dual identities who continue to fight the eternal fight of good VS evil, Hancock’s main protagonist is a crude superhero living in a PC world who must make amends for the disastrous consequences of his heroic deeds.
Former Fresh Prince and current reigning king of the summer blockbuster Will Smith plays the tile character Hancock, a boozing loner and all around prick whose often well intentioned heroism leads to often catastrophic results and a spiralling out of control collateral damage bill. During one of his heroic exhibitions, Hancock saves the life of bleeding heart public relations agent Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman) who believes that Hancock is in need of a dire image change and offers his services as payback for saving his life.
Hancock begrudgingly agrees and is convinced to voluntarily turn himself over to the authorities (who have several hundred outstanding citations against him) and do time in prison in a bid to win public affection and clean up his act. His stint in prison gives way to one of the more hilarious scenes thus far this year involving one prisoners head being thrust into another prisoners rear end! It is crass, but it works.
With the first half passed what has been presented is an entertaining urban superhero movie which comes dangerously close to have already shot its load. However, with a switch of genre and some nicely placed twists, a love triangle is established between Hancock, Ray, and Ray’s wife Mary (Charlize Theron) which adds some more spice to the unconventional superhero film.
And so it goes, as the film jumps from comedy to action to drama and does so quite nicely. Throughout it all the films three leads adapt very well to the shifts in genre, especially the versatile Will Smith who hits all of the right notes, Charlize Theron seems to be having the most fun on screen that I can remember, and low key comedy maestro Jason Bateman continues to forge a reputation of becoming quite the scene stealer. Keeping the film on a steady register is Michael Mann protégé Peter Berg, whose gritty tones and shaky cam styling blends very well with the films big budget fodder, most notably the special and visual effects which are a visceral treat.
Since Hancock does not play slave to a source material, it does not come off as generic. The only film which comes close to matching its concepts would be the excellent animated film The Incredibles. Yet while its script may be shaky – especially with its talk of Gods walking amongst men – the film's performances and Berg’s spirited direction make up for whatever flaws are present.