Sunday, April 14, 2013

Capsule Film Reviews: Hancock

Hancock, directed by Peter Berg, is not your standard superhero movie. Hancock (Will Smith), the eponymous superhero of the film, is lazy, a heavy drinker, a sexist, a womaniser, politically incorrect, and someone who throws teenage bullies high into the air. He lives alone in a couple of trailers he has stuck together on a cliff overlooking the ocean outside of Los Angeles. He is unappreciated by those he saves with his super powers and those who watch him save others because he has a tendency to destroy that holy of holies, private property, costing taxpayers money in the process and he is wanted by the law for his destruction of said private property. He is lonely, the only one of his kind, or so he thinks.

There is someone who thinks he can help Hancock. His name is Ray (Jason Bateman). Ray is a public relations specialist who wants to save the world. We first meet him giving his help me save the world pitch to a executives of pharmaceutical company who he hopes to convince to put his heart logo on their product in exchange for giving away their new TB drug to the poor at no cost. After being rescued by Hancock while being stuck on a railroad in traffic Ray decides to work pro bono for Hancock to try to improve his public image, ours is a public relations dominated world after all.

Eventually Ray's PR work begins to pay off. Hancock goes to gaol/jail voluntarilly and begins to clean up his act. He goes to therapy and finally begins to open, if only a bit. He stops drinking. He wears the snazzy superhero outfit Ray gives him despite its gay vibe. He helps the police capture a group of bank robbers armed to the teeth gaining his release from the hoosegow. Once out of gaol he becomes a celebrity, ours is the age of celebrity and celebrity whoredom after all.

With his life back on track Hancock learns that he is not alone. Ray's second wife Mary (Charlize Theron) we learn is, as she tells Hancock, a god, an angel, a superhero, as humans over time have called her and Hancock's kind. He and she, she tells him, come from a tribe of aliens who once upon a time paired off, as their species had to do, but who are all dead now, save for Hancock and Mary, because they do pair off. Hancock and Mary are still alive, still immortal, because Mary left Hancock in Miami when he was injured in an attack and lost his memory.

Now that Hancock and Mary have found one another they become vulnerable to the former psychologist Hancock captured during the bank robbery he was let out of gaol to deal with and his newly formed gang. During a shootout at the OK hospital to which Hancock has been admitted after he is wounded during a robbery he stopped, Hancock and Mary, who is there with him, are shot and shot again. For a while it as though Hancock the film will not have the happy ending we viewers typically expect from a Hollywood film. After Hancock manages to put distance between himself and Mary, however, a happy ending ensues, though it is bittersweet happy ending. Mary and Ray and Ray's teenage son live happily ever after in Los Angeles while Hancock ends up in Manhattan becoming Gotham's superhero.

I first saw Hancock at a drive-in theatre outside of Albany, New York with a science fiction fantasy obsessed acquaintance on a double bill with Adam Sander's You Don't Mess With the Zohan (2008) when both were released. I didn't remember much about either film afterwards. As Oz says in Buffy contemporary Hollywood films are like the popcorn you weren't sure you had when you went to the cinema. I recently watched the unrated version of Hancock with ten additional minutes on a Columbia DVD and I have to say the unrated version is much more memorable than the theatrical version. As I watched it this time I couldn't help but notice the Friday Night Lights, a television show I very much liked, shaky documentary style camera work, the presence of at least one actor from FNL, and Hancock's pretty successful mix of the comic, the parodic, the dramatic, and the tragic. On the down side there is the inevitable post 1980s pop, in this instance the pop is rap and hip hop, soundtrack that shreds its way through Hancock and threads its way through Hancock's orchestral score, something that makes me, at least, yearn for the good old days when a Hollywood film score was totally orchestral and orchestral music was used to underline and expand the film's narrative. Despite this I am still recommending the unrated version of Hancock on DVD. Check it out.

Hancock, 2008, directed by Peter Berg, written by Vy Vincent Ngo and Vince Gilligan (of Breaking Bad fame), 2:40:1

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