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Hancock: 1-Disc Unrated Edition DVD Review

Hancock movie poster Hancock

Theatrical Release: July 2, 2008 / Running Time: 102 Minutes / Rating: Unrated (Theatrical Cut: PG-13)

Director: Peter Berg / Writers: Vy Vincent Ngo, Vince Gilligan

Cast: Will Smith (John Hancock), Charlize Theron (Mary Embrey), Jason Bateman (Ray Embrey), Jae Head (Aaron Embrey), Eddie Marsan (Kenneth "Red" Parker Jr.), David Mattey (Man Mountain), Maetrix Fitten (Matrix), Thomas Lennon (Mike), Johnny Galecki (Jeremy), Hayley Marie Norman (Hottie), Daeg Faerch (Michel), Nancy Grace (Herself), Atticus Shaffer (Boy at Bus Bench), Donald Gibb (Convict), Mike Epps (Criminal - uncredited)

Buy Hancock from Amazon.com: 1-Disc Unrated Edition DVD • 1-Disc Theatrical Edition DVD • 2-Disc Special Edition DVD • Special Edition Blu-ray

As no shortage of recent movies have shown us, superheroes have the life. Sure, difficulties arise from fending off formidable foes and maintaining a normal existence on the side. But they get the excitement of thwarting evildoers, saving lives, getting the girl, and doing it all to widespread adoration.

Hancock asks us to reconsider that accepted order. Its title character is John Hancock, not the 18th century patriot who boldly signed the Declaration of Independence, but a man of great powers who protects the people of Los Angeles.
The indestructible Hancock (Will Smith) doesn't have the perks that usually come with the job. To Angelenos, his name is synonymous with the unpleasant slang word for anus. His reckless heroics have cost the city millions of dollars in destruction. Dependent on alcohol and living out of two trailers put together, he is irreverent, unfriendly, and largely unappreciated.

After Hancock saves him from an oncoming train, idealistic public relations man Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman) seeks to return the favor by doing something about the hero's bad reputation. Though initially unreceptive, Hancock decides to follow Ray's advice, having nothing to lose by turning himself over to authorities to serve jail time for a slew of outstanding subpoenas. True to the plan, Los Angeles soon misses its messy savior and Hancock is pardoned. Heeding Ray's conduct and safety tips and even reluctantly donning a uniform, Hancock is enlisted by the police to help with a tense bank robbery stand-off.

It's a bird, it's a plane, it's a drunk hobo superhero! Will Smith plays John Hancock, a powerful man who likes to gulp whiskey while flying. Do-gooder PR guru Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman) steps to the defense of the unpopular hero who just saved his life.

This all takes one hour, during which Hancock is amusing, engrossing, and clever. Feeling like a separate movie altogether are the remaining forty minutes, in which Ray's distrustful news junkie wife Mary (Charlize Theron) reveals one whopper of a surprise. The disclosure has drastic consequences for Hancock, the Embrey family, and the movie as a whole.

Without the resolution of its sharp arc fully sinking in,
what started as the tale of an unconventional hero seeking redemption shifts into something different. Immortality, selflessness, danger, and love all enter the equation rather from out of left field. The action that was initially so focused and human takes on a grander scale, feeling contrived, expository, and much less original.

Though it doesn't allow the audience enough time or perspective to warm to the many developments thrown at them, Hancock still pulls off a respectable final act. The conclusion tries a bit to bridge the steep divide between down-to-earth character study and mythological melodrama. Though it doesn't achieve that, the movie still leaves one satisfied. That's a pretty impressive feat for something that feels like two conflicting short films in one.

Will Smith illustrates yet again why he is one of the most popular draws in all of movies. His likeability seeps through a character that's clearly detestable and regularly recognized as such. The design requires restraint by Smith, who provides it. Doing so renders Hancock a far more complex and interesting protagonist than quirkiness or the actor's typical comic swagger would have. Does Smith really stretch to distance himself from the similar committed world guardians he's played before? No. Less humor originates from the lonesome Hancock, but mainly variables and circumstance distinguish this part from Robert Neville, Del Spooner, or Agent J. Nevertheless, Smith infuses Hancock with just the right amount of sobriety to keep him sympathetic and magnetic.

In what is the second lead role for much of the film, Jason Bateman impresses greatly with his turn as Ray Embrey. This could have been a forgettable straight man to Smith's bold superhero, but Bateman makes so much more of it, finding and seizing every opportunity for humor and relevance. The pair's unlikely friendship strikes the greatest chord in the film. As the wife whose personality first perplexes and whose part grows, Charlize Theron is up to the challenges here. Being in a major summer blockbuster must have been cathartic for her, after years of small acclaimed films and a tanked prior attempt to go big (Aeon Flux). Though it's initially odd to see her in a seemingly limited role in a high-profile Will Smith vehicle, that disappears as she tactfully provides what is requested, a few strange turns included.

Hancock reluctantly agrees to a brief stay in prison to build up the public's demand for his services. Charlize Theron's angelic wife character Mary has a big secret that by here is revealed.

Since headlining back-to-back behemoths in Independence Day and Men in Black, Will Smith has seemingly joined George Washington and Benjamin Franklin as one of the few people entering American minds around the Fourth of July. After a few years of movies opening outside that window, Smith returned to the summer holiday to numbers nearly as big as the aforementioned hits. Hancock marked the eighth consecutive Smith-starring film to handily top $100 million stateside. The film's immense earnings of $228 million domestic and $624 M worldwide easily cleared the high budget and put it in the company of other hero-driven blockbusters trailing billion dollar baby The Dark Knight from a safe distance.

Sony releases Hancock to DVD and Blu-ray next week. In a first for Smith, the film is treated to a cut advertised as being unrated. While normally that might reek of gimmickry on a PG-13 film, it's sort of logical here. After all, the film needed three submissions to the MPAA ratings board to secure the PG-13 needed to keep attendance as open as possible on a $150 M Will Smith film. Though a 2-Disc Special Edition DVD and single-disc Special Edition Blu-ray offer both versions of the film, Sony only sent us the 1-Disc Unrated Edition DVD, which drops the theatrical cut. That means my only viewing of Hancock treated me to ten more minutes of footage than was included in theaters.

Multiple uses of the F-word (excluding a censored subtitle translation) would alone merit an R rating as would an unsettling (but unseen) sex scene that's dropped in early on. Nevertheless, violence remains more implied than depicted and I wouldn't deem this suddenly inappropriate for teens who enjoyed the movie in theaters. This is a little bit rougher than your typical Will Smith mass-consumed blockbuster (so was I Am Legend), but it would still make for a fairly soft R.

Buy Hancock: 1-Disc Unrated Edition DVD from Amazon.com DVD Details

2.40:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English, French, Spanish)
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled
Release Date: November 25, 2008
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $19.94 (Reduced from $28.96)
Black Keepcase with Cardboard Slipcover
Also available in 1-Disc Theatrical Edition DVD, 2-Disc Unrated Special Edition DVD and on Unrated Special Edition Blu-ray


Hancock is presented in 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen, with picture as crystal clear and stunning as on any big budget studio picture. Peter Berg's shaky handheld camera work grants the film a different, freer energy from statlier superhero flicks. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is very dynamic and active, with surround channels regularly put into use in ways both big and small. The mix is sure to give your home theater system a good workout while serving the film well.

The Hancock of previs animatics is slightly darker and much balder than the genuine article (Will Smith). Charlize Theron hasn't had this many dots on her face since "Monster." Director Peter Berg tries to wow Will Smith with his Rubik's Cube skills in "Mere Mortals."


"Superhumans: The Making of Hancock" (12:50) gives us a very simplified version of the film's making, covering the development, attachment of director Peter Berg and stars, and fascinating ideas explored.
Though there's value to this brisk piece, it feels like a glossy, watered-down edit of something far more informative.

"Seeing the Future" (15:59) is comprised of eight shorts, all of which illustrate the reliance on pre-visualization computer animatics for staging key sequences. The first one shows us the filmmakers using and discussing the device, the last one is a short joke. The others simply compare the crude graphics to B-roll footage of location and greenscreen filming.

"Building a Better Hero" (8:15) turns our attentions to the film's praiseworthy visual effects, with talking head sound bites, production footage, and film clips. It makes a few striking observations about the field and work, but that's all it can do in that short time.

"Bumps & Bruises" (10:25) covers the practical effects showcasing Hancock's feats of strength and flight. It gives us more welcome looks at shooting without too clear a focus.

The last extra, "Mere Mortals: Behind the Scenes with 'Dirty Pete'" (3:55), considers Peter Berg's direction with a light tone. More footage and comments paint the jokey picture of a likable madman.

In addition to containing both cuts of the film, the two-disc edition holds an extra 20 minutes of content in the featurettes "Suiting Up" (on costume design) and "Home Life" (on set design). It also throws in a digital copy of the film.

The disc opens with a Blu-ray promo and trailers for The International and Lakeview Terrace. The typically robust Previews menu holds additional looks at Synecdoche, New York, Step Brothers, Pineapple Express, The Wackness, Quarantine, The Pursuit of Happyness, Men in Black, Hitch, Resident Evil: Degeneration and Balls Out: Gary the Tennis Coach. Disappointing but expected, there is nothing from Hancock's own marketing campaign.

The main menu runs with a straight scored montage of action scenes from the film. Submenus are static but some of these are accompanied by score excerpts.

Like so many major studio DVDs today, Hancock houses its keepcase in a cardboard slipcover that reproduces what's below with the slight reflection of foil. The only in-case insert is a sheet advertising Blu-ray and a specific Blu-ray player with Hancock imagery.

Mary and Hancock wonder what they have in common, besides African-American actors portraying them. Cleanly-shaven, polite, and donning his own costume, Hancock helps out the Los Angeles Police Department on a tense bank robbery with hostages.


Hancock feels like a good one-hour movie followed up by a less satisfying but not meritless 40-minute sequel. For the creative twist it puts on the superhero genre and for what Smith and Bateman bring to their focal parts, it certainly merits a look.

If you liked Hancock in theaters and would like to own it on DVD, the 2-Disc Special Edition seems like the obvious selection. Even if you don't feel the need to have all the ordinary bonus features or a digital copy at your disposal, you're sure to want the option to choose between theatrical and unrated cuts.

More on the DVD / Buy Hancock from Amazon.com:
1-Disc Unrated DVD / 1-Disc Theatrical DVD / 2-Disc Special Edition DVD / Special Edition Blu-ray

Buy from Amazon.com

Related Reviews:
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Iron Man • Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull • Journey to the Center of the Earth • The Happening • Get Smart
The Incredibles • Fantastic Four (Extended Edition) • Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer • Sky High • Ghost Rider

The Cast of Hancock:
Will Smith: Enemy of the State (Special Edition) | Charlize Theron: That Thing You Do! (Tom Hanks' Extended Cut) • In the Valley of Elah
Jason Bateman: Juno • Silver Spoons: The Complete First Season • Extract
Thomas Lennon: Reno 911! The Complete Fifth Season • 17 Again | Eddie Marsan: Happy-Go-Lucky

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Reviewed November 22, 2008.

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