My Rating: 6 out of 10
Hancock is a hard film to review because it’s a hard film to get a handle on. There’s a lot of good elements to it, such as the performances and the special effects, but the film suffers from a kind of schizophrenia that makes it hard to define, hard to review, and ultimately hard to like.
The film follows John Hancock (Smith), LA’s resident superhero. Hancock is a laconic, foul-mouthed alcoholic who causes as much damage and chaos as the criminals he puts away, and the citizens of LA have had enough. When Hancock saves the life of PR guru Ray (Bateman), Ray makes it his mission to restore Hancock’s standing in the public eye, despite the misgivings of even his own wife, Mary (Theron).
Hancock is a schizophrenia movie at best. The script tries to be an effective dramedy, mixing big laughs with a good story, but the tone shifts rapidly from scene to scene so that neither the audience nor the film itself is sure what genre it’s in. One minute it’s a comedy, the next it’s a superhero drama, and the next it’s high-flying action. The constant shifting reflects a tumultuous process of getting Hancock’s script together, and even after the film’s big twist the movie can’t decide how serious or funny it wants to be. When even the film can’t decide what it wants to be, I find it difficult to decide whether or not I like it.
The performances are universally good. Will Smith is the next screen giant, with the skill and sheer force of personality to carry any role, and even though John Hancock is far more subdued than the parts he usually takes Smith does a fantastic job bringing the character to life. Jason Bateman is another actor who deserves more kudos. He’s got a comic wit and timing to rival any actor out there today, but he also puts in some great dramatic performances too. Charlize Theron does a good turn as Mary in a very understated performance, playing the housewife hiding a secret, but I didn’t see the chemistry she was supposed to have with either of the male leads. Rounding out the staples of a superhero flick is Eddie Marsan as Red, a bank robber who serves as the film’s “villain”. Marsan tries to give a creepy, evil performance but the script gives him rubbish to work with other than an almost-funny running gag involving hands. You’ll know it when you see it.
The special effects are top notch. There weren’t any effects that stood out as being that. The flying looked real, Hancock’s use of super-strength looked real, but more than that, when I watched the film it never occurred to me that I was watching special effects, and that’s the ultimate goal when it comes to a film like this. So my most sincere kudos to the effects team.
I’m finding it hard to say much more about the film. It tries, it tries very hard to be a unique kind of film, a thinking person’s blockbuster popcorn flick. But in the end it fails, suffering from confusion about just what kind of film it wants to be. Go in with no expectations – or scab a free ticket from someone – and maybe you’ll be happy, but I wasn’t so much.
My Rating: 6 out of 10