“HANCOCK” (2008) Review

“HANCOCK” (2008) Review

When I first learned about the premise for ”HANCOCK” – a superhero leading the life of a drunken bum – it struck me as rather original. I still feel that it is one of the original movie premises I have ever come across.

”John Hancock” (Will Smith) is a powerful amnesiac who uses his super abilities to occasionally help the citizens of Los Angeles. Unfortunately, not only does his help tend to come off as heavy-handed and reluctant, but also damaging to public property. In short, his actions and drunken, yet sardonic attitude also pisses off a lot of people. This all changes when Hancock ends up saving the life of a Public Relations spokesperson named Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman). The grateful PR man offers to help Hancock clean up his public image. Although Ray ends up achieving his goal, trouble arises when Hancock finds himself growing attracted to Ray’s wife, Mary (Charlize Theron). And she finds herself forced to reveal a big secret surrounding both Hancock . . . and herself.

I must admit that I found the first half of ”HANCOCK” rather interesting. It seemed like a rare treat to witness the metamorphosis of a drunken, yet powerful asshole into a competent and less reluctant Good Samaritan/superhero. Unfortunately, once Mary revealed the truth about herself and Hancock, the movie veered into entirely new direction. What started out as the development of a genuine superhero who might be interested in a friend’s wife, ended up as a semi-tragic tale of two immortals forced to remain apart in order to maintain their powers. Frankly, I found this whole, new scenario a load of nonsense. And a contrived reason to keep the two immortal lovers, permanently apart.

In a way, I can understand why screenwriters Vince Gilligan and Vincent Ngo prevented Hancock and Mary to end the movie with a lovers’ embrace. Such a conclusion would have broken Ray Embrey’s heart. And I must say that Jason Bateman’s portrayal of the idealistic PR spokesperson struck me as very enduring. It would seem slightly depressing if the movie had ended with his character as a loser. In fact, I would go further and say that the main strength ”HANCOCK” centered around its cast. British actor Eddie Marsan made a captivating bank robber with a penchant for bombs and revenge against Hancock. Oscar-winning actress Charlize Theron did a wonderful job in portraying the enigmatic Mary Embrey, who is not only torn between two men, but by a secret she has been harboring for years. But it was really Will Smith in the title role, who really impressed me. Portraying a character as complex as John Hancock must have been a challenge. But Smith lived up to the challenge by capturing every nuance of the character without resorting to over-the-top acting, as he was inclined to in the past decade. Without him, Bateman and Theron, the movie could have fallen apart.

I wish I could say that ”HANCOCK” was one of the better movies of the summer of 2008. Despite stellar performances by the cast and Peter Berg’s competent direction, the movie was nearly undone by a script that deviated midway into the story. However, the movie was not a total loss. It could have been a lot worse. A lot worse.

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