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“Hammer” Can’t Quite Leave An Impact


Prodigal sons, tough fathers, and the extreme situations that bring them back together once more are nothing new onscreen. It’s a tried and true dramatic formula. Hammer is the latest to give it a shot, crafting a film that mixes drama elements with thriller moments (basically falling under the crime genre, overall) to try and craft something a bit different. Unfortunately, despite a nice performance from Will Patton, the ultimate impact left by the project is far less than you would expect. The ingredients are here for something fairly moving and easily effective, but the folks involved can’t quite pull it off.

The movie is a crime tale, mixing dramatic and thriller elements, in telling the story of a father and son. For Stephen Davis (Will Patton), his estranged son Chris (Mark O’Brien) has always been an albatross around his neck. Not in the traditional ways, but in terms of worrying about him. When Stephen sees his son speeding past him one day, he knows in his bones that something is up. Lo and behold, he’s right. Chris is fleeing a botched drug deal, one that would have given him some desperately needed cash. Knowing his boy needs him, Stephen offers some assistance, but it quickly becomes more than they both bargained for. Any hope of mending their relationship takes a back seat as things get dangerous in a hurry. Chris’ partner Lori (Dayle McLeod) goes missing at the same time as a vengeful drug dealer kidnaps someone they both love. The more Stephen learns about Chris, the less he recognizes his son. As he ponders just how much he’s failed as a father, he has to decide if he can truly keep helping the boy, even as the cost increases. Christian Sparkes directs and penned the screenplay here, with cinematography from Michael Robert McLaughlin, while Jeff Morrow composes the score. Supporting players include Lara Jean Chorostecki, Ben Cotton, Connor Price, and more.

Will Patton is the main reason to consider seeing this flick. Writer/director Christian Sparkes balances the story nicely between Patton and Mark O’Brien, but he should have leaned harder into the latter’s story, as it’s the far more compelling one. Patton’s mix of determination to help his son and horror at what Chris has become makes his interpretation of Stephen a real winner. O’Brien is fine, but he’s far more of a stock character, between the two. Patton is a reliable veteran actor, and this could have been even more of a showcase for him than it already is, so that’s a missed opportunity.

Hammer is a short film, but it drags its feet getting to the sort of conclusion you see coming from a mile away. Sparkes is not a subtle filmmaker, which is a shame, considering the very nice tribute at the end. Everything that happens here is an event created for cinematic drama. It never feels real, and that’s where the power would reside. Patton’s performance transcends that, but he can’t do it alone. Sparkes either needed to up the realism, the thriller aspect, or extend the running time to give us more of a story. As it stands, it all feels both too silly and too thin to work.

This week, Hammer seeks to find itself a little audience when it hits VOD. In all likelihood, it’s destined to be forgotten about, but not because it’s bad. The movie is fair, and just shy of recommendation worthy, but its small stature and inability to distinguish itself will doom it. If you’re seeking out a crime drama, you certainly can do worse. There are just hints of a much better film here, and it’s not what we end up getting…

Hammer is available to watch this Friday.

(Photos courtesy of Vertical Entertainment)

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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