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July 10, 2008

I’m angry. Like the Hulk.

Since Nolan’s Batman showed the Superhero genre how to do the decent thing, I’ve been living in hope that someone else might have the cajones to take up the baton and do something similar, or, imagine this, do something even better. It can’t be that difficult, surely? Some character development, some insight, an arc or two to follow to make you care for the protagonists…? If the very best 25-minute sitcoms can get you to give a rat’s ass about people rapidly sketched out in stricter time constraints, surely a 90-minute movie can take time out from the explosions and destruction to do something similar?

I was delighted, then, to take in the first 50 minutes of Will Smith’s new blockbuster, Hancock, which really was trying hard to do something different, and dammit if it wasn’t actually more engaging that the Nolan effort, at least initially.

Hancock is more than a little washed-up, he is, in fact, a total bum. An alcoholic who we first find sleeping it off on a bus stop bench in central LA, with a little kid pulling his arm and pointing into a TV shop window where numerous screens are showing a news report of an armed chase on the highway. Hungover and clumsy, Hancock flies off, and apprehends the villains, creating untold millions of dollars’ worth of damage in the process. It’s a very funny sequence, utilising some seamless CGI that doesn’t detract from Smith’s terrifically grumpy performance of a man interrupted mid-snore by the tedious duty of trying to do the right thing.

It’s this incompetent stab at fulfilling his duty that is proving his downfall in the eyes of the LA population. Destroying everything in his path to bring the bad guys to book, Hancock is simply rubbish at the way he goes about it, and gloriously short-tempered in response to his critics. Stinking of booze, looking like the bottom of a dumpster and quick to turn on the people he’s supposedly helping (“I can smell alcohol on your breath!” “That’s cause I’ve been drinking, bitch!”, or, when a tubby chap has a go: “Somebody should sue you!” “You know what? You should sue McDonalds, cuz they fucked you up!”) is no great way of getting the public to love him, either. But it’s very very funny, and the wordplay of the irritable is always well worth listening to, as any Victor Meldrew fan will attest.

This situation is added to very neatly when Hancock rescues idealistic PR man, Ray (Jason Bateman), who decides to improve the anti-hero’s status by sending him voluntarily to jail, so that he can appear to be taking responsibility for his mistakes, and giving LA time to realise they actually need him. Cue a seriously funny example of how to ensure you never get any trouble in prison ever…

At this point, I’m settling in very nicely to what’s been served up. Much of the story inbetween the laughs is actually quite serious, and there are moments where Hancock suffers a lonely sobriety that make you think there really is more to the man than just a funny drunk. A thread of darkness never hurt even the most comical of characters, and there’s that here, certainly.

And then you approach the hour mark, and it’s ruined. And I mean, ruined. Totally broken in half by a groan-making twist of such epic unnecessariness that if you’re planning on seeing this soon, I’d suggest you actually get up and walk out at the midway point. After Will Smith carries a very drunk Bateman up to his room and then wishes him a good night, do yourself a favour; leave. At that point, get up and go. The twist in the next scene is one of the worst I think I can ever remember.

Seriously. The huge paradigm shift in Psycho when Marion is killed and the stolen cash plot evaporates, the vampire reveal in the previously crime/road movie From Dusk ‘Til Dawn, both of these turned those films on their heads. But in a good way. Here, Man Alive, here it’s just awful. I won’t give it away, I’m not that mean, and I still have the goodwill of the first half implanted in the back of my mind, but had I been on my own I’d have screamed “Whyyyyyy?! at the screen. It’s really that painful.

What I wanted was Hancock to go back to jail after each call-out and work his way through some kind of redemption, and search out his turn-to-drink demons and face up to his loneliness. What I got was mess of exposition and easy answers that created a WHAM!BANG! finalé, and then faded to nothing in the dying seconds.

What an awful waste. Can you hear that roar? It’s my primal scream of rage calling The Dark Knight to come to the rescue.

first half
second half

2 Comments leave one →
  1. William permalink
    July 10, 2008 3:45 pm

    Aw. Now I really want to go and see it just to identify that turning point… damndamndamn.

  2. July 21, 2008 3:27 pm

    Go on. Tell us it. Please?

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