"Hancock" Brings New Energy and A Lot of Booze to Superhero Genre

Let's face it: being Will Smith has got to be exhausting. He's a megawatt star who brings people of every race, class and gender to the theater, he's proven his range with action, romantic comedy, thriller and dramatic roles, and he's got a family-man, squeaky-clean image. Whether he likes it or not, he's a role model. Thus, the opportunity, albeit a risky one, to play a vulgar, alcoholic, sloppy superhero must have been attractive. In Peter Berg's intriguing "Hancock," Smith shows that even the most despicable characters have a shot at salvation. This innovative take on the superhero flick is both entertaining and carries an emotional weight not often seen in the genre, but it loses track halfway through and rushes towards an ending that is less than satisfying.

John Hancock (Will Smith) can leap tall buildings, toss cars as if they were tennis balls, and deflect bullets with just his skin. He can also drink like a fish, talk like a sailor, and spends most of his time passed out on a park bench. He stops crime in Los Angeles when he feels like it, so the city tolerates his presence even though no one can stand him. When he does step in, though, he causes the city a lot of damage (finally, a superhero who suffers the consequences of the big, flashy action sequences!). His first heroic act of the film is stopping a high-speed chase, during which he busts through road signs, destroys part of the highway, and leaves an SUV speared on the top of a building. The tally? $9 million.

The public hates him, but he doesn't seem to care. When he saves do-gooder public-relations rep Ray (Jason Bateman) by throwing his car out of the path of an oncoming train but in effect causes a huge train wreck, Hancock suffers a slew of insults from an angry crowd. "Couldn't you have just flown the car straight up into the air? You're such an asshole," they cry. Ray, happy to be alive, decides to thank Hancock by giving him an image makeover, instructing him to be more careful on take-offs and landings (avoid the $100,000 cars), ditch the hobo fashions for a sleeker costume, and say "good job" to local law enforcement. As Hancock tries to redeem himself - unenthusiastically at first - we learn more about his past, his powers, and the strange connection he has with Ray's wife Mary (Charlize Theron).