Hancock review

By Jon Sandys

Thu 3rd Jul 2008

I've just been to see Hancock in the middle of the day, at the insistence of a female friend of mine who's recently developed a lusting for Jason Bateman. I'd been keen to see it regardless, initially because of the trailer, and then even moreso because of the negative reviews that started appearing - I distrust massed negativity.

In case the trailer passed you by, Hancock is the story of a slacker superhero (Will Smith), living in L.A., who drinks too much and has a few anger issues, which when dealing with bad guys tends to result in him causing a few million dollars' worth of damage, and the public are slowly turning against him. One day he saves the life of a struggling public relations expert, who takes Hancock under his wing and tries to shift public opinion in his favour.

It's had a mixed (but mostly negative) reaction from critics, but I think expectations are what's causing the negativity. The trailer makes it look like a laugh-packed action movie, and sure enough the first half fits into that mould perfectly. However, part way through it shifts gear into something I wasn't expecting, even with the clues I'd picked up here and there. An extra layer of plot's revealed, and the comedy dies down while this new development plays out. Personally I was so engrossed in the film that it was only afterwards I realised there hadn't been many laughs towards the end.

But to my mind, good is good, regardless of the expected genre, so provided you expect a combination of ideas, you won't be disappointed. The funny bits are funny (the golden comedy rule of violence involving frying pans is used to good effect), the serious bits have decent weight, and as we start learning about Hancock's background I was pleased to discover enough of an original backstory had been created to give them somewhere to go with it, without being bogged down too much in exposition.

There are definitely plot...gaps, rather than holes, and I wonder if chunks of storyline were excised for the sake of pacing, which by and large holds together well. Nothing's obviously missing, but there are definitely a few areas, noticeably involving the principal bad guy, insofar as there is one, where it felt like there was backstory we weren't privy too. Not enough to draw attention to itself, but there are a few phrases and glances which made me feel that they were meant to mean something, but in the finished product have no real relevance.

So at worst it's a bit disjointed, but not so much as to grate, so no-one should be put off by it. I laughed where we're meant to laugh, stopped when we were meant to listen, and the ending genuinely moved me. Will Smith is grumpier than normal but to good effect, Jason Bateman demonstrates his awesome comic timing once again, and Charlize Theron, who from the trailer seemed to have a fairly thankless role, has anything but. Clear your mind of the bad reviews, be prepared for a film of two halves, and enjoy it.

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