Saturday, 12 July 2008

Film Review: Hancock

A shambling, misanthropic boozehound with anger issues, the character Hancock is nearly as big a mess as the film that bears his name.

Unsure of whether it’s a frat boy comedy, summer family blockbuster, love story, adult action flick or dark superhero character portrait, a film that shows substantial early promise collapses in a schizophrenic seizure after thirty minutes and never recovers.

That the film becomes so muddled is a real shame because it begins in such a promising manner. Ignoring the unnecessarily censored use of Ludacris’s Move Bitch in the opening scene, Hancock opens with a succession of genuinely funny moments. Smith, as a drunk, flying version of his character from Bad Boys, is in his element, cracking wise as he whupps ass on a car full of Koreans.

Hancock, hated by the Los Angeles public for being so reckless in the pursuit of saving lives, stops a train from killing Jason Bateman’s character, Ray. Ray is a likeable publicist – the kind of big-hearted PR schlub that exists only in fiction – who decides to repay Hancock by making the public love him.

Ray’s plan is to make the people of Los Angeles realise that they need Hancock by making him voluntarily enter prison. Whilst inside, Hancock shoves one inmate’s head up the ass of another, kicks his alcohol habit and has a shave.

Soon enough, the crime rate in Los Angeles rises and the mayor requests the release of Hancock. Willcock’s release from jail marks the point where it’s no longer possible to enjoy this film.

Having foiled a bank robbery by severing the hand of the lead baddie with a lampshade, the public finally embrace Willcock, but before he can enjoy his newfound adoration, Ray’s wife – played by the always hot Charlize Theron – is revealed to be a superhero too. Only, as she tells us, they’re not superheroes, they’re gods or angels or something. And they’re immortal. Oh, and if they spend a lot of time together, they both lose their powers. Only Charlize waits until Hancock has been shot twice in the gut before telling him of his new mortality.

So, in the film’s dreary conclusion, Hancock is in hospital when the now hook-handed bank robber, who has conveniently escaped from prison, tries to murder him. He shoots Charlize, who is now mortal too having spent a bit of time in Big Willy’s company, so the two superheroes are sufficiently weakened that Jason Bateman has to finish off the one-handed twat.

In the epilogue we see that Willcock has legged it to New York so that he and Charlize can both be immortal again. Meanwhile, Ray and Charlize are living a happy life in Los Angeles, Ray seemingly not giving a shit that his missus is immortal and could also kick the living fuck out of him at any moment.

If I’ve made the second half sound remotely interesting, I’ve done a terrible job of explaining it, for Hancock is a totally misconceived movie - a bizarre and confused amalgam of comedy, action and romance that completely fails to mesh properly.

And yet, you suspect it wasn’t always so. Preview versions of the film featured much more swearing and gags involving statutory rape and, yes, super-spunk, indicating that the original intention was for Hancock to be a dark, adult comedy. By searching for that all-important PG-13 rating, Sony’s studio executives have absolutely castrated what could’ve been a good film.

While Bateman and Theron invest more integrity into this incoherent script than it deserves, Hancock is a $150m debacle that will leave audiences confused and insulted.

After this and the similarly flawed I Am Legend, it might be beyond even the greatest superhero to get Will Smith’s career back on track.

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