Monday 21 August 2017

Movie Review: Hancock (2008)

A superhero comedy with a difference, Hancock deserves credit for conjuring up an original perspective on all-powerful heroes, but then clumsily bifurcates into a discordant narrative.

In Los Angeles, Hancock (Will Smith) is an indestructible superhero with a bad attitude. He can fly, stop trains and bullets, and throw any object to a great distance, but he is also surly, destructive, frequently drunk and generally disliked, despite stopping criminals in their tracks. Meanwhile, Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman) is a public relations consultant struggling to get his career on track. Married to Mary (Charlize Theron), Ray is finding no takers for his concept of branding corporate charity initiatives.

After Hancock intervenes to save Ray's life at a rail crossing, Ray takes it upon himself to try and improve Hancock's image. The superhero reluctantly agrees and surrenders himself to a stint behind bars as punishment for the carnage he has caused. Hancock is slow to participate in rehabilitation programs, but gradually opens up about his past and the source of his simmering anger. Revealing information about Hancock's background suddenly comes to light from an unexpected source.

At approximately the halfway point of Hancock, the big twist is revealed, and the film heads off in a whole new direction. Which is a pity. The abrupt change of trajectory launches the narrative towards a convoluted origins story where new facts come fast and furious, and none of them are given sufficient air to breathe. A lot is revealed about Hancock and his relationship with another character, but it's a rushed blur of history and science-fiction-made-up-on-the-fly.

It is too much to ask a 92 minute film to adequately tackle two different weighty themes, and Hancock's first part is by far the better. With some excellent laughs and a caustic attitude, director Peter Berg explores the emotional malaise of a reluctant superhero. Hancock is much more comfortable passed out cradling a bottle than rescuing anyone, but rescue he does, often leaving a trail of expensive mayhem in his wake. What causes a superhero to descend into a funk, and possible pathways for him to recover, make for a fun initial ride.

Will Smith and Jason Bateman bounce off each other with contrasting energy levels, Bateman's Ray fully invested in his own can-do pseudo management babble, Smith nailing Hancock's spare-me standoffishness. Charlize Theron gets to do a lot more in the second part of the film, but by then all the emotional momentum of the film's set-up is lost.

Elsewhere Berg mixes in the usual tired CGI effects at regular intervals to satisfy genre fans who just want to see ridiculous pixel-generated action.

Hancock soars when it sets its sights on the future, and stumbles on its own myth when it tries to explain the past.

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.

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