Hancock is Los Angeles’ resident alcohol-fueled, low-flying sometimes hero. With all the exciting aspects of an action movie, sparkling comedy and a heartfelt plot, this is the most honest super hero movie I’ve ever seen.
When not drunk, John Hancock (Will Smith) flies around Los Angeles, protecting innocent people from criminals and disaster. The rest of his time is spent creating or recovering from hangovers. Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman) is a big-hearted public relations specialist that was rescued from tragedy by Hancock. It turns out to be a lucky connection for each because Hancock has earned a reputation for being an asshole – his reckless and sloppy rescues were often times worse than the original danger – and Ray can’t get his grand idea to save the world off the ground. Together with Ray’s wife Mary (Charlize Theron) and son Aaron (Jae Head), Ray and Hancock struggle to repair his tarnished reputation by making him a hero worth admiring. It is no simple feat.
It is also not a simple achievement to make a fictional character multi-dimensional, but to make one supernatural and believable at the same time is no less than applause worthy. Writers Vincent Ngo and Vince Gilligan should be credited for creating a character rich in complex emotions, all veiled beneath an alcoholic veneer, which shields him from his sheer loneliness and from the hate spewed on him by the public. In the beginning of the movie, it is hard to like Hancock, even when he is in the middle of a heroic act. Yet as the movie progresses, so does Hancock – he grows, he learns and he tries.
Giving the characters life are great interpretations by the actors. Will Smith is sinfully sinful as Hancock. He gives a raw dirtiness to the role, but does not make him unlovable. His attention to the emotional details, especially at the end of the movie, makes Hancock worth the audience’s forgiveness. Also, Smith’s comedic timing was flawless. Charlize Theron goes toe to toe with Smith in a thespian tug of war that ends in a tie. Her performance brought tears to my eyes and made my heart break. Theron should be locked up for how often she steals the scene in Hancock! Jason Bateman is no slacker either. His wide-eyed, bushy-tailed enthusiastic portrayal of Ray cheers up the audience when it’s his turn on screen. Look to Bateman to make you laugh more than any other actor.
Hancock has got itself some sensational visual effects too. There is no shortage of explosions, destroyed streets, and buildings falling down. In the opening there is even a scene inspired by the Flintstones but done with such great visuals, there is nothing stone aged about it. I had completely suspended my disbelief, lost myself in the story and became entranced in the visuals.
Heck, even the music is good. There is a song in the movie that has all of the brass a super hero deserves but is fresh and original.
When the music, acting, writing, and visuals all come together to meld into a great movie, not separate things from each other, the director should take all the credit. Peter Berg’s direction in Hancock is deserving of merit and earns my acclaim. My only complaint is the shallow villain. While his part is small and simple, it was not given the same care the other characters were given and there was a missed opportunity to create another layer of depth.
In the past I’ve had serious problems with the typical tights wearing super hero and the tactics they employ. The tax payers have to clean up after them, they are never accountable to anyone once they perform their “service” and the topic of loneliness is often ignored. Hancock addresses all those points and does it in a way that leaves the audience nearly in tears or high from laughter. In either case, they’ll be yearning for more.
Don’t miss Hancock. It’s time very well spent.