The writers and director of Hancock take a hyper-powered leaf out of the Mystery Men and Return of Captain Invincible school of heroism with Hancock. Will Smith plays a nihilistic superhero who has fallen out of favour with the public.
With this scenario the biggest danger facing Hancock is that it fails to rise above the status of one-joke film and that certainly seems to be its fate in the opening scenes, in which the anti-hero causes $9 million worth of building damage while attempting to prevent a crime. Amazingly, though, Hancock is then rescued (both as a character and as a film) by the most unlikely source – PR executive with a heart of gold Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman), who believes he can turn Hancock’s public image from zero to hero.
It’s a set up that allows the best to be brought out in both actors. Bateman (Smoking Aces, Love Stinks), whose name is usually mud when it comes to appearing in good movies, brings out the best in Smith the actor and the action becomes surprisingly fresh and funny. Director Peter The Kingdom Berg does a sterling job in balancing the requirements for Hollywood summer blockbusters to give a bang for their buck and a director’s desire for good camera work and an interesting story arc. Berg also controls the secondary storyline concerning Hancock’s near biblical attraction to Bateman’s fabulous wife Mary (the chameleon-like Charlize Theron) with distracting subtlety. Theron is photographed in close-up and hand-held in the style of the French New Wave. Both Smith and Berg deserve plaudits for their attempts to subvert a tired genre with this superhero film that dares to be that little bit different.
Out now on general release.