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Monday, September 1, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 77.0° F  Mostly Cloudy
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Hancock:Bad good guy
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What do you get when you mix a superhero with an anti-hero? Super-Anti-Hero-Man! And although that idea was already floated this summer, with great success, in Iron Man, here's Hancock, an action-comedy that features a superhero so anti-heroic even kids, who should love him, think he's an asshole. We first see Hancock on a Los Angeles street, out cold, sleeping off the night before, like some derelict who just happens to have super-strength and the ability to fly. But the fact that he's played by Will Smith, the most likable guy on the face of the planet right now, suggests that a makeover is in the offing. Indeed it is, in a movie that, like Hancock himself, has its share of problems but nevertheless rises to the occasion, soaring above our comic-book-movie expectations.

"I'll break my foot off in your ass, woman," he tells one innocent bystander, and Smith knows exactly where to pitch that line - an element of threat, with the suggestion of warmth down there somewhere. At first, we don't know why Hancock is the way he is; he keeps saving the day while destroying enough property to leave people wishing he'd take his superheroics elsewhere. Then he routinely rescues a public-relations whiz (Jason Bateman) from an oncoming train, causing a multi-freight-car pileup in the process. And the PR guy, a starry-eyed idealist who wants to change the world (don't they all?), takes over as Hancock's image consultant. He gets him to apologize, say "good job" to the cops, even wear one of those skin-tight leather suits. More importantly, he gets him to delve into his anger-management issues.

Hancock is shot in the herky-jerky camera style that director Peter Berg has used to such great effect in Friday Night Lights, but it seems less appropriate here, forcing us to constantly reorient ourselves when we might prefer to focus our attention on other things. There are also some problems with the story's cosmic underpinnings, which lead to a mid-movie revelation involving Charlize Theron as Bateman's wife. But none of this seems to matter as all three actors continue to hit their marks, dropping charm bombs on us. The movie's tonal shifts between comedy and drama are quick enough to give you emotional whiplash, but that doesn't matter either. Like its main character, Hancock finds its own way through the cluttered world of superheroes. It may not be as polite as we'd like, but it gets the job done.

Hancock, Eastgate, Point, Star

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