1 hour, 32 minutes
Second-Run Seats ($$) <
> Matinee ($$$)
Will Smith (I Am Legend) stars as Hancock, a super-powered being sorely in need of an attitude adjustment. After rescuing Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman, Smokin' Aces), "the Bono of public relations", Ray encourages Hancock to turn over a new leaf, to give the public a reason to value his help and not scream bloody murder over his costly messes. Hancock's curmudgeonly ways stem from his belief that he is alone, but he soon learns that he is not as unique as he believed, a revelation that comes with a hefty cost.
Director Peter Berg (The Rundown) takes on a bold project that establishes a superhero property steeped within the confines of reality and not the more traditional lore of DC or Marvel comics. Establishing a history, conflict and redemptive path for the surly Hancock proves to be more of a challenge than Berg and writers Vincent Ngo (Hostage) and Vince Gilligan (TV: The X-Files) could manage. Instead of a display of grandiose feats, audiences are treated to frenetic camerawork and too-close visuals that explore the actors' nasal passages more so than their emotions and interactions. The story has a similarly jarring effect to that of the shaky lensing. The tale's reckless swelling and ebbing make it difficult to understand or even locate a plot at times, and rushes to wrap up the climax and other key points when time is needed.
Kudos to Smith, Bateman and Charlize Theron (Aeon Flux) for establishing rich characters that rise above the story's chaos. Bateman does the best job to me; yes, I am a fan, but his performance shows why he deserves the praise.
The sheer level of devastation and property damage by Hancock is astounding. In this case, the PG-13 rating manages to elevate the violence by cutting away from the conflicts, leaving much to the imagination. Villains thrown from buildings tens of stories high have little chance of survival if you ponder the aftermath of Hancock's actions. Berg couldn't resist visualizing Hancock's favorite threat in the prison, which to me would have been better left to our own imaginations. When Hancock's not performing feats of illogical and stupefying proportions, he's boozing and cursing. The word 'asshole' is spoken by folks of all ages, and to show his rough edges, Hancock even tosses out an abrasive 'fucked' to an enraged crowd.
You can't go wrong with Will Smith as a healthy hunk of man meat, though he doesn't give off that vibe until he gets a trim and a new attitude. Likewise, the statuesque Charlize Theron goes from cute doting housewife to fever-inducing fox with just a touch of dark makeup and tight jumpsuit.
The Money Shot
The saving grace of Hancock was that there was no competition to keep it from setting holiday records despite being a mess of a film. Never quite resting long enough to tell a thoughtful story and never revved up enough to be popcorn-munching adrenaline fluff, it settles into an nauseating, woulda-coulda-shoulda rhythm. Hancock succumbed to its greatest weakness, sacrificing substance over style.
Monday, July 7, 2008