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Sunday, January 25, 2009

(Late) REVIEW - "Hancock" (2008)

It’s always a shame to watch good ideas go down the toilet. “Hancock,” would have been a good movie, maybe even a great movie, had it kept things simple. “Hancock” delivers an intriguing spin on the Superman-esque character and some equally interesting ideas on how people would have to deal with him. This is certainly enough material to give “Hancock” what it needs to be a fine movie. Filmmakers are constantly drilling deeper into the superhero psychosis and it’s really bringing about some of the better blockbusters we’ve seen in recent years. Unfortunately, “Hancock” can’t restrain itself enough to tell this story. Every hero needs a worthy firefight I suppose. In this case the resulting battle is enough of a twist to kill the movie’s integrity.

Will Smith stars as, you guessed it, Hancock, a bum superhero that can indeed save the day, but the collateral damage he causes becomes a problem. Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman), a failing public relations supervisor, decides he has what it takes to help Hancock. He advises him, gets him to look more presentable and introduces him to his family. From there Hancock learns how to fit in with our society and discovers an alarming connection to his past-- A connection that reveals itself to be the point where the movie begins to fail.

Lets back up a moment though. “Hancock” starts out promising. Smith plays the perfect anti-Superman, constantly saving the day with much disdain and receiving the least amount of gratitude possible. His antics are as amusing as they are flawed. When he finally saves Embrey’s life the movie’s parodying of super-heroic collateral escalates to some of the film’s finest moments. In reality, would a superhero be the cheesy truth, justice and American way man we always imagine them to be? Or would they be like us? Selfish, depraved, flawed… Because of this would a super human need a PR associate to keep him in check?

All of these questions the filmmakers pose get answered in one way or another, but it would have been far more interesting to spend time on the ideas that created the character instead of spin the audience in to an entirely new storyline. Suddenly the reality of “Hancock” is shattered by one, brief scene and the following footage catapults the audience in to disbelief. Everything the movie built on: The reality of supermen in the real world. Their depravity. Their collateral. It all goes away so we can get treated to a “Matrix Revolutions” battle.

And where does Charlize Theron fit in to all of this? She plays Embrey’s wife, and she knows how to act, yes. She can look beautiful, sure; but she did not need to be in this movie. (For those who have seen the movie and understand my dislike for the “twist,” you understand why.)

The rest of the movie forgets the first half occurred altogether. The explanation for Hancock’s existence is as trite as it is vague, making me wish it were left unexplained. Dramatic moments leading to the climax are half-hearted, riddled with only textbook action movie clichés.

What true drama is in “Hancock” is certainly worth the look. The effects are certainly pretty as well, but the payoff is disheartening. Will Smith is a fine actor, but I’m beginning to wonder if his misses outweigh his hits. Peter Berg certainly has talent as well. “The Kingdom” was one of the finer, more underrated films of 2008, but here he really loses sight of when drama and action are necessary. There are heroes. There are superheroes. And then there’s Hancock. Stick to the former two. They make for better movies.

** out ****

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