In our third superhero movie of the summer, we get the refreshing Hancock, a rare genre film not derived from any comic book. While not perfect, this action-comedy has enough gunfights, laughs and entertainment to make it well worth the $10 admission.
In Hancock, Will Smith stars as a super-powered man who is invincible, has super-strength and can fly at blazingly fast speeds. Despite that, everyone in the city hates him. Not only does he tend to cost the city millions of dollars in damage with his "heroics," but he's a bum, a drunk and an asshole. With people chomping at the bit more than ever from Hancock to stop "saving" them, a PR agent (Jason Bateman) manages to convince Hancock to do some time behind bars to appease the public and make them realize just how much the city needs him. The plan works, but what happens next will surprise you.
First off, if you liked the previews, you will love the first half of the movie. Hancock, directed by Peter Berg (The Kingdom), is a fast-paced thrill ride full of car chases, gunfights and ugly children being thrown thousands of feet into the area just for mouthing off to the "hero." Smith is a convincing drunken bastard, and he acts like one with amazing ease. There are plenty of laughs, some good one-liners and lots of destruction (amazingly few explosions, come to think of it). I was highly anticipating Hancock, and much of the film delivers.
In the second half, though, Hancock begins to show some cracks. People are going to disagree on just how big of cracks there are; I would have gone an entirely different, simpler direction, but can't complain too much. The movie is consistently entertaining and has a fair amount of action, though some of the magic from the first half is lost in the second. After a completely surprising twist, the film's dynamic changes, not necessarily for the better. It dives into some rather unconventional plot elements that I don't know were the right choice for a summer blockbuster, but more importantly, Hancock loses much of its humor. I wouldn't say the film gets dark, but it certainly gets darker.
If you're wondering what I meant by keeping things simple, I would have had a supervillain show up and start wailing on Hancock. End with a gigantic fight sequence and throw in a few laughs to boot. It wouldn't have been the most original way to wrap things up, but when it comes to comic book movies, you don't need to be original, just exciting. Hancock's ending is pretty good, but perhaps a bit too low scale compared to what I would have expected.
In the end, Hancock suffers from a surprising but not necessarily great twist, weak CGI and a lack of a strong central villain, but its positives make up for at least some of its deficiencies.
Had Berg and writers Vincent Ngo and Vince Gilligan tried to stay within the standard limits of a superhero movie, Hancock could have been great. As is, it's solid but not flawless entertainment.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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