What if Superman were an asshole? Not only an asshole, but a drunk as well? I’m sure that was part of the pitch for Hancock, a lackluster entry into the summer blockbuster season. This film, though not incompetent (it looks as bright and shiny as most other films that revolve around vehicles being tossed about like toys) fails to work as an exciting superhero thriller, as well as a meditation on the nature of immortality, which seems to be have impressed some critics.
Will Smith is the title character, a boozing malcontent who lives in a trailer and quite often sleeps on city benches, hungover and pissed off. He helps out the citizens of Los Angeles, but inevitably does so much damage (he drops an SUV full of machine gun-toting thugs on to the spire of the Capital Records building) that people wonder whether his efforts are worth it.
When Hancock ends up saving the life of a PR guy, Jason Bateman, he is thanked with a home-cooked meal. Bateman’s wife, Charlize Theron is naturally suspicious of the effect of the dipsomaniacal Hancock on her young son, but Bateman smells an opportunity. All Hancock needs is good publicity.
Yes, the first half of this film is all about the exciting world of public relations. I hope all of you can handle the rollercoaster ride! Bateman convinces Hancock to voluntary allow himself to be incarcerated, and then when crime goes up the city will turn to him to rescue them. Sounds like a pretty half-baked plan, but this being a dumb summer movie, it works like a charm.
Then the film takes a sharp turn, and becomes something else entirely. I won’t spoil it, but even with the humdrum nature of the first half, this turn is not welcome and really it’s downright silly. The film has no internal logic and has rules that seem to exist simply to accommodate the story twists. I suppose the climax of the film is supposed to be some big emotional pay-off, but all I could manage was a yawn.
There’s lots of blame to go around. Primarily it’s the script, which has all sorts of holes in logic and no particular point of view. The direction, by Peter Berg, is in the Michael Bay school of shit blowing up, and like Michael Bay, has no subtlety, originality or individuality. And as for Will Smith, well, a lot of people find him charming, but I am not one of them. An actor of incredibly limited range, he’s not particularly convincing as a cretin in the first half, or particularly likeable when he’s supposed to have changed. I just didn’t care anything about his character.
The end of the film suggests a sequel is possible, depending on the audience reaction. To which I say, to use a Smith catch-phrase, “Aw, hell no!”