The Hammer

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hammerIt’s strange. When I was a kid, I’d buy a record album and stare at everything on it while it played on the stereo. I’d look at the art work. I would read the liner notes, to see if any other famous musicians played on the tracks. Yet as a movie critic, I don’t do that as much with credits in movies. Here’s a perfect example why.

The Hammer was directed by Charles Herman-Wurmfeld. I had only seen two of his movies. I’m guessing most of you have only seen one – the disappointing Legally Blonde 2 (it was no Weekend at Bernies 2).Yet if you had seen his film Kissing Jessica Stein, you’d be a bit more excited about his involvement in this.

He brought along the co-writer and one of the stars of that movie – Heather Juergensen. She and Adam Carolla have some chemistry together, too.

Carolla wrote this movie with her husband, Kevin Hench (a writer from The Man Show), and that leads to my only complaint about this movie. Having been a huge Carolla fan since first hearing him on Loveline (with the unlistenable Dr. Drew), a few of the rants in the movie I had heard Carolla use before. That’s a treat though, for all of you out there that know very little about him. He’s got great takes on almost every pet peeve I have in life. He’s a younger, and less Jewish, Larry David.

It’s perplexing that Howard Stern became so huge in the media. I’ve always thought he was one of the most overrated guys in the media, and Adam Carolla was one of the most underrated. It’s odd that Carolla replaced Stern on the radio. Also surprising that both of these guys pumped out good movies.

The Hammer centers around an aging ex-boxer (Carolla) who works as a carpenter. He’s got a lot of problems in his life (mostly people that nag at him). His closest friend seems to be with a co-worker named Ozzie (Oswaldo Castillo).
Carolla teaches boxing at a gym, and impresses a boxing coach (Tom Quinn). This coach wants to get some fighters together for a try-out for the Olympic team. This is when the movie starts to become an interesting underdog tale. Although it might have a cliché or two, the movie went in interesting directions I didn’t see coming. And I’ve seen every sports movie made.

Juergensen is one of the people Carolla trains. She’s a public defender, and you’re rooting for their romance to blossom as much as you are for him to make the Olympic team.

One of the many smart things this movie does is develop a more realistic relationship between Carolla and a younger, cocky boxer (Harold Moore). If this were a huge Hollywood blockbuster, they’d make that boxer unlikable in a way that would have us wondering how anybody could stand being in the room with him. It’s kind of like how Ron Howard had to make the character of Max Baer, in Cinderella Man, such a mean antagonist that he is rude to the wife of Jim Braddock. It’s not enough that the real Baer was the heavy favorite, had killed a few people in the ring, and was more interested in partying than training. Nope. Instead, Hollywood screenwriters have to make you really despise the guy.

It makes it that much more enjoyable and refreshing to watch characters we can all relate to in some way.

I remember on one of Carolla’s radio shows, he had Bobcat Goldthwait as a guest. Carolla was giving him a hard time for sitting around his house smoking cigars and making fun of other comedians. When I did morning radio and Goldthwait was a guest in the early 90s, he was doing the same thing with his manager (sans cigar). So while Goldthwait denied he did that, I knew Carolla was telling the truth.

Well, I sometimes wonder about actors/writers from Saturday Night Live that go do movies that are dreadfully unfunny. You wonder how they could be so funny in sketches, but not in a full-length feature film. I am sure they sat around drinking and smoking cigars, and talking smack about how bad all these comedies are that come out of Hollywood. Yet at some point, they start doing them.

Carolla once made fun of Boogie Nights on his show, because guest Heather Graham was telling him the premise. He said “There’s no way a movie with Burt Reynolds as a porn producer, and you on rollerskates the entire movie, is going to be any good.”

He admitted later that it was great movie (it is). And the reason I mention all of this is…if Carolla spent as much time ranting about all the idiots of the world, and unfunny people – it would’ve made me cringe to give a movie of his a bad review. Luckily for everyone, he brought the same level of intelligence and humor to the big screen, in a small little sports film. I’m just afraid most people will miss this. That’s a shame, because it’s really worth checking out.

I’m obsessed with making lists. I did a story about the 50 worst villains in movies. I’ve done stories on the best soundtracks. If I were to do a list on the Top 10 sports movies of all time, The Hammer doesn’t make it. It would easily make the Top 25 (and I still get crap from my friends for not liking Rudy).

It’s not Raging Bull or Rocky – but it’s as good as The Great White Hype. That’s a funny boxing film that made millions at the box office. The Hammer will be lucky to make a million. That’s a shame, because it’s one of the better movies you’ll see this year.

I’m giving it a B+.

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