A friend of mine saw Wantedâ€”a movie I've been excitedly hyping upâ€”last night and fiercely hated it, prompting him to call me Sunday afternoon to bitch and moan about owing him $20 ($11 for a ticket + $9 for stale popcorn and flat soda = an AMC Theaters-issued ass-raping). "That shit was pointlessâ€¦no logic whatsoeverâ€¦bullets can't curve like thatâ€¦exploding rats?...Common toting guns is bullshit.â€ I swiftly hung up the phone, knowing that the conversation would've ended up with me going off on one of my patented "I'm going to try and impress you with my movie know-howâ€ rants, and heaven knows those can be brutal to endure. Plus, this friend swears that Dude, Where's My Car? is worthwhile cinema. He even owns it on DVD.
If I had debated with him, though, my Wanted defense would've been that it's the anti-Hancock. Wanted is shameless in its brainless, bullet-ridden euphoria, never taking itself seriously and sticking to its guns, literally, from first frame to last. Exactly the opposite can be said about Will Smith's latest, however, a flick I'm sure will cash in heavily this weekend despite being pretty terrible. Frustrating. Angering. Mind-bogglingâ€¦okay, you get my point. Don't get me wrongâ€”Smith is as entertaining as ever here, but it's painfully obvious that he's struggling through a horribly-written script. It's like watching Kobe Bryant play on a Division III college basketball team. Same goes for Smith's co-pilots within Hancock's crashing plane: the stunning Charlize Theron and always-effectively snarky Jason Bateman. Hancock is shit, yes, but not for lack of effort by these three.
The biggest culprit is no sense of distinct tone and/or direction, story-wise. It's seriously one of the most schizoid movies I've ever seen. As everybody else in the audience laughed hysterically and applauded frequently, I thought, "Damn, I've been reading way too many screenwriting books, it seems.â€ I could pick Hancock's structure apart for days. For example, minutes into the film, Hancockâ€”an alcoholic, antisocial superhero who can fly, is naturally bulletproof, and possesses amplified strengthâ€”is flying to a crime scene, weaving between skyscrapers with a Whiskey bottle in hand. The song playing is Ludacris' "Move Bitch,â€ signaling a goofy demeanor further stressed moments later when Hancock has a messy confrontation with some obnoxious kids. Cool. Then, after sending himself to prison in hopes that people will become appreciative of his crime-fighting ways in his absence, Hancock scuffles with two inmates. After repeatedly warning that he'd do so, he shoves one guy's head up the other's ass (seriously). At this point, it's clear that director Peter Berg and his crew have their sights set on lowbrow fun. Great, I'm strapped in and ready for some grade-A cheese.
Around the 55-minute mark, unfortunately, things take a drastic turn toward near-Wild Wild West territory for Big Willie (no Brokeback?). [SPOILER WARNING]. Now, Theron's character (Bateman plays the publicist voluntarily trying to clean up Hancock's public image; Theron is his damn-fine wife) has been unsubtle in her distrust and contempt of Hancock. The reason, we learn, is that she's also a superhuman immortal, a lost lover of his from where "the gods and the angelsâ€ live, or some mumbo-jumbo bullshit like that. There's even more to their back-story, but it's all pretty much nonsense and totally derails any momentum the movie has had thus far. The film's tone becomes much darker more smile-free dramatic. Any kids in attendance will be either confused or scared, any teens will become bored, and all adults should feel cheated and stupefied. There's this big climax in a hospital that peaks with an overly-tense near-death moment, and then suddenly this lame sight gag happens blatantly for cheap laughs. Come on! Make up your damn mind! Is this a comedy? A drama? A romance? What? Oh, I know: a bad movie.
I'm not saying all movies must stick to one genreâ€”hell, I love the line-blurring Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz as much as the next Simon Pegg groupie. But, there has to be some sense of control. Hancock seems like a hodge-podge of several ideas that can't be threaded together. An interesting factâ€”originally, the script was titled Tonight, He Comes, and centered on a much porno-y concept: a superhero who can't orgasm, because every time he does, he kills the girl. Yikes. And from what I hear, Smith actually filmed a scene of this variety, but it didn't make the final cut (pun intended). Now, if I had seen that within Hancock's short running time (92 minutes or so), I'd have walked out, for sure. And the last movie I exited early from was Freddy Got Fingered. Will Smith on Tom Green's level? I can't even ponder that.