‘Hancock’ delivers the darker side of heroes | VailDaily.com

‘Hancock’ delivers the darker side of heroes

Charlie Owen
Vail, CO Colorado
Special to the Daily

Mr. Fourth of July returns. First Will Smith fought aliens in the mega-blockbuster “Independence Day” then he fought more aliens in “Men in Black,” another huge success. But Smith trades aliens for common criminals in the super-hero action/comedy/drama “Hancock.”

Director Peter Berg (“The Kingdom,” “Friday Night Lights”) turns what should have been a mediocre film about a superhero with no prior comic book franchise into a funny, dark, original and exciting take on the genre. This is not the movie that is shown in the trailers and commercials, and for that, it is almost certainly doomed, no matter how good it really is.

Hancock (Smith) is an unappreciated man who spends half his time drunk and the other half saving the city of Los Angeles from all manner of criminals using his ridiculously super-human strength and his ability to fly. The movie starts out as an action-fest during which everything from cars, buildings and freeway signs are destroyed in a battle with nameless city bad-guys, which is where most of the joy will come from for viewers.

Of course, Hancock is given no praise for saving the city from its crime problem, mostly because he destroys everything in sight on purpose, treats the citizens of L.A. like dirt, and drinks and curses in front of little kids. He is the film’s hero and villain simultaneously.

Then along comes PR man Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman) to clean up Hancock’s image and make him into the loved and respected superhero he should be. Embrey convinces Hancock to do time in jail as penance for his bad behavior and to make the city realize they need him. The movie keeps a pretty standard, hero-gone-bad-gone-good-again motif until act two, when things take a turn for the weird and unexpected.

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Hollywood has flooded the market with superhero movies during the past decade, some great, many horrible. Hancock is one of the good ones. Berg explores the inner-workings of a superhero with feelings beyond “truth, justice and the American way.” Hancock learns to respect himself in spite of himself and save humanity because he wants to, not because it’s expected of him.

Parents will hate Hancock because they’ll think it’s a kids film (which it most certainly is not), geeks will hate it because it lacks any normal superhero background or cliches. That leaves the masses in the middle who will undoubtedly be confused by some of the rather unusual plot twists and how Hancock originated, not to mention the film’s dark overtones. The fact that it shoots for so many targets at once without really hitting a bullseye may be the reason why Hancock: the sequel might not take flight. But for those who don’t buy into to superhero stereotypes, “Hancock” is anything but a failure.

High Life writer Charlie Owen can be reached at 970-748-2939 or cowen@vaildaily.com.

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