When is a superhero not a superhero? When he's a crude, dirty alcoholic. Hancock is a mostly enjoyable concept film that goes off in an unexpected direction. It's a shame then that the makers don't seem to quite know what to do with their impressive twist.
John Hancock (Smith), as his everyman name suggests, is the anonymous superhero who regularly saves Los Angeles and its citizens from danger — but at some considerable cost. He may have forgotten his name some 80 years before, but there's a good chance that his middle name is "collateral damage" rather than "danger". His drunken attempts to clean up the city end up costing millions and the people are clamouring for him to go. This is the point in Hancock's "career" where his path crosses with Ray (Bateman), a much put-upon but decent PR man on his own charitable mission to save the world. When Hancock saves Ray from certain death, Ray decides to thank Hancock with some professional advice: a little spin-doctoring to up Hancock's profile, improve his image and generally stop his fellow citizens hating him. As Ray's advice works, Hancock cleans up his act and discovers some interesting aspects of his past — which we can't tell you, as we're not about the spoilers. What we can tell you, however, is that Red (Marsan), one of the more violent thugs Hancock has put away, is hell-bent on revenge and has broken out of prison.
There are a number of plus points about Hancock. The concept is a peach, the leads are excellent and, for once, the trailer neither contains all the best moments nor does it let the twist out of the bag. The downside though is that, as mentioned above, while the makers deserve a pat on the back for the concept and the twist, they don't appear to know how to marry the two. Accordingly, while Hancock remains entertaining and full of surprises, it also feels like two distinctly separate movies. It thus gets four stars for the first half, two stars for the second, and a three as average.
EXTRAS *** There are two versions of the film on the disc — the theatrical cut, and a slightly longer, "unrated" cut. Remember those rumours of a superhero-proportioned shagging scene that was excised for Hancock's cinema release? Well that scene is back here. And yes, it's a hilarious as you'd expect it to be. Apart from that, as far as any bonus material goes, there are just eight featurette: Superhumans: The Making of Hancock; Home Life; Seeing the Future; Suiting Up; Building a Better Hero; Bumps and Bruises; Mere Mortals: Behind the Scenes with Dirty Pete; and On-Set Visual Diary. Plus three trailers. That's it — no commentary, no deleted scenes, no gag reel.