Available on DVD

Hancock image

General Release 2008
92 minutes approx
Certificate 12A

John Hancock -
Will Smith

Ray Embrey -
Jason Bateman

Mary Embrey -
Charlize Theron

Directed by -
Peter Berg

Written by -
Vincent Ngo & Vince Gilligan

Official Site


John Hancock is Los Angeles' resident superhero and the people sure wish that he wasn't. True, he gets the job done, but in doing so he usually causes more damage than the criminals would have done. Case in point, when he saves PR specialist Ray Embrey from certain death on a level crossing, he destroys the entire train instead of just lifting the car off the tracks. Grateful for his life, Ray decides to remodel Hancock's image and make him more loved by the people of the city, soemthing that's hard to do with a drunk who has been indicted of criminal damage. His first move is to put Hancock in jail, a move that works wonders of the man himself as he considers his way of life and on the public as they see crime in the city rise dramatically. Ray's wife remains hostile to Hancock, however, perhaps because she is scared that he might learn her secret.

Hancock crash lands

Another superhero movie in a summer blockbuster season dominated by superhero movies, HANCOCK heavily borrows its initial premise from two other superhero stories. Superheroes doing more damage than good and being sued for their actions is straight out of THE INCREDIBLES whilst the whole drunk superhero thing was done way back in 1983 in the much overlooked musical comedy THE RETURN OF CAPTAIN INVINCIBLE. Still, both of these are themes worth another look and provide a story that manages to separate itself out from the crowd a little.

Hancock, for example, when we first meet him, is not a likeable person. When virtually everyone else calls him an asshole, they're not joking and they're not wrong. It's not just the way that he does things, either. He is a drunk and he's abusive, confrontational and genuinely seems to not like people. And yet he goes around saving them.

Image advice for a superhero

It's a dichotomy not lost on Ray Embrey who is a nice person. He's perhaps too nice. He's certainly too nice for advertising. He sees beneath Hancock's exterior directly to the heart of the problem, loneliness. It doesn't help that he then explains this to the audience like they're a bunch of four year olds that need it signposting, but it sets up the story as a redemption story just as much as an origin story. Of course it helps that Hancock is played by the immensely likeable Will Smith who has to work hard at appearing dislikeable and so whose redemption is a given, but some of the scenes in prison (a visit by Embrey's son and the moment when Hancock faces the temptation of freedom) are really effective. Smith is in his popcorn movie persona, but he does manage to give his conflicted hero a little bit of depth.

Jason Bateman, on the other hand, struggles with an underwritten role that requires him to be nice and, well, nice. He doesn't appear to have a journey to go on. Which leaves Charlize Theron in the initially thankless role of Embrey's wife who takes an instant dislike to Hancock and becomes more significant later on.

Hancock does his thing

And whilst all of this introspection is going on there's the question of a superhero movie's two vital ingredients - the action and the villain. As far as the villain goes, there really isn't one. Not a super-powered one, at least. There are a group of convicts out to avenge themselves on Hancock who, through a plot twist that we're not going to spoil here, have a good chance of killing him, but there's no costumed madman to take down, only Hancock's own inner demons. This means that there's not all that much action to be had. The ending of a bank siege is excellent and the initial opening getaway sequence is impressive, but the main battle sequence (again we're not saying how it comes about for spoiler reasons) is shoehorned in simply to have a main battle sequence even though there is no real reason to have the main battle sequence.

HANCOCK is a superhero blockbuster that wants to be more than that, but isn't willing to take the chances that it needs to take in order to be more than that. It is enjoyable enough with some really good moments (the Youtube video of Hancock saving the whales is a laugh out loud one and yes you did see it on the trailer), but it eventually opts for the safe route of an action finale.

Still, it contains more heart and sense of character than IRON MAN and THE INCREDIBLE HULK combined.

Jason Bateman the most beautiful woman in the world(TM) Charlize Theron

We're just glad we managed to get through the whole review without mentioning that Charlize Theron is the most gorgeous woman in the world...Oh damn.

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