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HAMMER OF THE GODS

A highly underrated historical splat fest from the UK that has run afoul of critics both amateur and professional (it currently holds a 4.5 imdb rating) whoíve questioned its historical accuracy. What those critics seem to have overlooked (as they so often do) is the entertainment factor, in which area this film has plenty to recommend.

The Package
     HAMMER OF THE GODS arrived in 2013. It had the misfortune to follow a plethora of similarly themed films like BEOWULF AND GRENDEL, 300, BLACK DEATH, VALHALLA RISING and CENTURION, and so didnít seem quite as novel or interesting as it might have 5-10 years earlier. It did, however, receive a limited theatrical release courtesy of Magnet Releasing.
     Incidentally, the filmís producers Rupert Preston and Huberta von Liel teamed up for another medieval splatter-thon in 2015ís SWORD OF VENGEANCE, whose reception essentially matched that of HAMMER OF THE GODS.

The Story
     Britain, 871 AD: the young Viking warrior Steinar is given a mission by his dying father, King Bagsecg: hunt down his errant brother Hakan, who was banished from the kingdom years earlier. Steinar accepts, and heads off on a two day ride to find Ivar the Boneless, together with his wimpy brother Vali and fellow warriors Grim, Jokul and Hagen. Ivar the Boneless, it seems, was Hakanís right-hand man, but got sent away after making a ďmistakeĒ with a couple of boys.
     A day into their journey Steinarís band happens upon a woman being stoned by several men. They attempt to rescue her by massacring the men, but when she fails to display sufficient gratitude Grim kills her. Later they happen upon Ivar the Boneless, who, following an arm wrestling contest Steiner ďwinsĒ by thrusting a snake at Ivarís crotch, agrees to lead Steinar and his men to Hakan. Accompanying them is Agnes, a hot chick who provides the requisite love interest for Steinar.
     What follows is a skirmish with enemy warriors in which Grim is killed by a sword thrust through his skull. Another skirmish sees the guys detained by Hakanís agents, but they quickly escape. Ivar goes mad shortly thereafter and is killed by Steinar.
     They eventually reach Hakanís forbidding cave-bound layer, where Steinar is detained by Hakanís brainwashed agents. There he meets his long-lost brother, and further mayhem ensues.

The Direction
     As a history lesson HAMMER OF THE GODS is pretty worthless, with director Farren Blackburn trying a little too hard to give the proceedings a hip--i.e. Quentin Tarantino-esque--overlay, evident in the profanity-laden dialogue (sample line: ďsomeone tried to fuck with youĒ) and opening credits sequence, in which the protagonistsí names appear onscreen a la RESERVOIR DOGS. Note also the highly revealing costumes, the sleeveless vest-like contraption worn by lead actor Charlie Bewley in particular.
     Otherwise, however, the film works. Itís energetic and well staged, and the horror movie arc--it is a literal journey into the heart of darkness--certainly worked for me. In the lead role Mr. Bewley is reasonably charismatic (although Elliot Cowan, who plays his evil brother, is better), and heís complimented by appropriately stark and unglamorous field-and-cliffside scenery.
     Of course itís the ultra-gory battle scenes that are this filmís primary reason for being. Theyíre done in the SAVING PRIVATE RYAN manner thatís become so popular, utilizing ultra-mobile, jerky handheld camerawork and a great deal of gore, with multiple stabbings, slashings and dismemberments that occur at a rate of about one (or more) every couple minutes. Profound it isnít, but I was entertained.

 
Vital Statistics

HAMMER OF THE GODS
Vertigo Films

Director: Farren Blackburn
Producers: Rupert Preston, Huberta Von Liel
Screenplay: Matthew Read
Cinematography: Stephan Pehrsson
Editing: Sam Williams
Cast: Charlie Bewley, Elliot Cowan, Clive Standen, Guy Flanagan, Michael Jibson, Glynis Barber, James Cosmo, Alexandra Dowling
 

     

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