Writer/director Christian Sparkes’ crime/thriller Hammer earns its admittedly confusing and seemingly arbitrary title from its first end-of-film title card: “in loving memory of our fathers Ian ‘Hammer’ Sparkes and John White” (possibly referring to the father of Producer Allison White).
While the film (on paper at least) is mainly about a botched drug deal and its fallout, it is, in essence, about a father’s love for his son, and the lengths that he’ll go to protect his child. The movie clearly functions as a love letter from the filmmaker to his own father, but whether or not the actual events are autobiographical remains unclear.
Chris (Mark O’Brien) moves drugs across the border in partnership with Adams (Ben Cotton) and Lori (Dayle Mcleod). But when the deal goes south, in an instant of happenstance, Chris teams up with his estranged father Stephen (Will Patton) in an attempt to get himself and his family out of harm’s way.
This is a decent little film. It is well acted and rather tense. I enjoyed O’Brien’s performance as Chris, and Patton turns in a very strong, mostly restrained portrayal of Stephen, a man trying to do right by his son, despite their considerably sordid familial history. That written, Patton has one moment where he lets loose, and it’s impressive to say the least.
The film (which was shot in Ontario’s Sault Ste. Marie – affectionately referred to by Canadians as “The Soo”) has a lush colour palette, revelling in the greens and browns of forests and cornfields, and while there are a number of moments that use shaky steadi-cam unnecessarily, overall, the movie looks quite good.
Still, I can’t be all positive on Hammer. There are moments of dialogue that feel like something I would have written in high school (for the record, that’s a negative). I take no issue with swearing in movies, particularly when it comes to drug runners who are seeing their livelihood potentially on the line. That written, there are moments where the swearing seems incredibly forced, as if to suggest “this character is a bad guy because he uses bad words”, which comes across as a little hollow.
I thoroughly enjoyed the ending of the film, but I can recognize that it won’t be for everyone. Admittedly it does kind of just stop with one character asking a question, and the other just giving a bit of a smirk in answer. I found that beautifully ambiguous, and while it could seem like a cop out to some, for me, it felt very true to life, as we often don’t have simple answers to simple questions.
Overall, I enjoyed Hammer. I take some issues with it, but there’s some genuine tension in here, and a relatable, poignant father/son dynamic that resonated with me, even though it is nothing like the relationship I had with my own father.
- Rated: NR
- Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller
- Release Date: 6/26/2020
- Directed by: Christian Sparkes
- Starring: Ben Cotton, Connor Price, Mark O'Brien, Vickie Papavs, Will Patton
- Produced by: Allison White, Chris Agoston, Jonathan Bronfman, William Woods
- Written by: Christian Sparkes, Joel Thomas Hynes
- Studio: JoBro Productions & Film Finance, Rhombus Media, Woods Entertainment