Somewhere between the optimism of “Superman” and the stark realism of “Batman Begins” lies “Hancock.”

Hancock rescues people and stops crime like any other superhero, but he also carves a swath of destruction along the way.  And for this,
people hate him.

It doesn’t help that he has a bit of drinking problem either.

“I can smell that liquor on your breath!” one woman yells after Hancock’s “heroics” destroy an entire train.

“That’s ‘cause I’ve been drinking, bitch!”

Hancock is the anti-superhero in every sense of the word.  And amid a barrage of lovable and noble heroes that show up at the box office
every summer in greater and greater numbers, Hancock is a breath of fresh air.

“Hancock” is just plain funny, and that’s why it works.  There is some really funny crass dialog here, but we also come to feel for Hancock as
we learn more about his past.

But even with a pretty decent script, the strength of the film is really the cast.

Will Smith is perfect as the title character and Jason Bateman is always a welcome face as the PR man who helps to change Hancock’s
image.

Add in Charlize Theron as Bateman’s wife and you have a really solid cast that makes the most of the screenplay’s sense of humor, and
even helps sell some of the rough patches of the story later on.

Perhaps most surprising is how little action there is in “Hancock.”  The film focuses on its characters and this definitely pays off in the end
when the drama becomes ratcheted up quite a bit.

The film also steps away from standard superhero fare in its lack of a central villain.

Director Peter Berg always keeps things moving along quite well, and even injects a bit of an edge into the camerawork.

His action sequences are nothing special, but the emphasis is never on action anyway.  This film really is about Hancock and the choices he
has to make to become a revered, or at least a less hated, figure.

As I mentioned before, the plot does sputter a bit with regards to Hancock’s back story near the end of the film.  It feels a bit rushed and
undefined.  Perhaps it’s the product of some last minute studio editing, as is rumored.

But by that point we really do like these characters and the actors all go with it and run.  The ending is genuinely satisfying.

“Hancock” certainly won’t be remembered among the top superhero films, but it’s just way too much fun to write off altogether.

* * *
(out of four)
HANCOCK
Directed by: Peter Berg

Written by: Vincent Ngo and Vince Gilligan

Starring: Will Smith, Charlize Theron, Jason Bateman,
Jae Head, Eddie Marsan, David Mattey

Cinematography by: Tobia A. Schliessler

Music by: John Powell

Released: July 2, 2008; 92 Minutes