Review by Sean Boelman
A new crime-thriller from writer-director Christian Sparkes, Hammer offers a much-needed leading role for the phenomenal character actor Will Patton. And even though the script trails off into nowhere more often than not, the performances make this film worth a watch nevertheless.
The movie follows a father who discovers his estranged son fleeing from a drug deal gone wrong, sending them on a race against the clock to right his wrongs before they both end up on the wrong end of a bullet. It’s a simple premise that, if executed well, could have made for a really intense watch, but wasn’t developed beyond the basics.
There are some significant issues with pacing in the film. Although there is always something happening, the constant barrage of intensity (though it is worthy of note that the violence isn’t particularly gruesome) will desensitize the viewer to the point that the conclusion ultimately feels very anticlimactic.
Perhaps the movie’s biggest wasted opportunity is its abandonment of the character-driven storylines introduced in the first act. Sparkes hints at a really interesting arc for the protagonist, only for this to be largely ignored for the rest of the film apart from the occasional throwaway line that reminds viewers of the story’s purpose.
The easiest way to fix this would have been to develop the father-son relationship at the core of the film with more depth. If this had been the primary focus of the movie as opposed to the more generic (but also arguably more cinematic) crime tropes that compose much of the conflict, it would have had much more of an emotional impact.
That said, despite the fact that they aren’t given a ton of material to work with, the film’s two leads both do an excellent job in their roles. Patton proves that he has the chops to be an excellent leading man, especially if he gets something more meaty. Supporting actor Mark O’Brien has strong chemistry with Patton, creating a necessary tension between them.
On a technical level, the movie does have its semi-rural Canadian setting working in its favor. There are some absolutely gorgeous shots that give the film a very rustic feel and adding to its atmosphere. On the other hand, the editing fails to create a satisfying narrative rhythm to push the story along.
Filmmaker Christian Sparkes doesn’t do enough to make his sophomore feature Hammer exciting. Despite the stakes being established very clearly, it’s hard to buy into the urgency of the conflict because of lackluster pacing, and as a result, the film feels mostly stagnant.
Hammer hits VOD on June 5.