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Time Out says

If you can remember the seismic upheaval in the superhero order that was ‘Superman III’, during which the square-jawed one grew stubble, hit the whisky bottle and flicked peanuts at barmen, you may get flashbacks when watching Will Smith’s Hancock. But the big difference between Christopher Reeve’s trad hero and this latest lazy, drunken member of the caped fraternity is that Hancock was never a Samaritan in the first place. He looks like a tramp, he kips on benches, and he leaves behind him a trail of destruction wherever he tries to lend a hand. He doesn’t even
own a cape.

He’s a selfish layabout in need of some old-fashioned movie redemption. Which is exactly what we get. Oddly, it takes a suburban PR executive called Ray – played with charm by Jason Bateman – to correct Hancock’s behaviour, even if Ray’s wife Mary (Charlize Theron) is strangely wary of their friendship. As Ray gets to work on Hancock’s image, the film offers some humour and Smith, as ever, is fairly charismatic.

For the first half, there’s a laidback, knowing vibe to the script and Smith has some fun with the whole bizarre idea while director Peter Berg swings his camera about as he did for ‘The Kingdom’. It’s a very modern conceit: that behind every successful man lies an even better publicist. And it’s no coincidence that Hollywood, with its reliance on a well-oiled PR machine, has come up with a fictional publicist who’s more angel than svengali. But then the rest of the film – after an hour – flops spectacularly.

The big problem is that the script tries to have its cake and eat it, first ribbing us with nods and winks emanating from this sideways view of a superhero and then abandoning this detachment in favour of a traditional comic-book showdown that feels out of place, rushed and squeezed into the film’s remaining minutes. Put simply, the filmmakers bottle it.

Hancock’s reinvention as a good guy coincides with the emergence of a super-criminal played by Brit actor Eddie Marsan, who in the facial hair department looks like he’s stepped off the set of ‘Happy-Go-Lucky’. He’s a lame villain. There’s an unexpected twist that throws some weird, distracting logic into the mix, followed by a crisis, a fight, a spurt of apocalyptic digital larks – and it’s over. The film bows out not as a wink-wink pastiche but as a straightforward superhero movie – and a bad one at that.
Written by Dave Calhoun

Release Details

  • Rated:12A
  • Release date:Thursday 7 February 2008
  • Duration:92 mins

Cast and crew

  • Director:Peter Berg
  • Screenwriter:Vincent Ngo, Vince Gilligan
  • Cast:
    • Will Smith
    • Jason Bateman
    • Charlize Theron
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