MRR Review: "Hammer of the Gods"

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A young man transforms into a brutal warrior as he travels the unforgiving landscape in search of his long lost brother, Hakan the Ferrocious, whose people are relying on him to restore order to their kingdom.
2.5

Movie Review: "Hammer of the Gods"

Rating: R (bloody violence, language including sexual references, some nudity)
Length: 95 minutes
Release Date: May 30, 2013
Directed by: Farren Blackburn
Genre: Action

"Hammer of the Gods" begins with Steinar (Charlie Bewley), a Viking warrior who is trying to live up to the expectations of his very remarkable father, King Bagsecg (James Cosmo). The year is 871, and the Vikings are about to go to war with the Saxons, so leadership is very important right now. Armies begin gathering for both sides of the impending war, and tension begins to rise within the camps.

It is at this very precarious time that King Bagsecg receives a potentially fatal wound, which would mean that his shady son Harald (Finlay Robertson) would take over as king at a very critical time. Steinar believes Harald was behind their father's wound and knows that if he were to take the crown, he could potentially lead the Vikings straight to their demise. He had long heard rumors of a third brother named Hakan (Elliot Cowan), who had been banished many years earlier by their father. He takes two of his best men and goes out on what he hopes to be a short journey to find Hakan in the hopes of having him return to camp and take his rightful place as the next Viking leader.

The journey turns out to be anything but short as Steinar comes across many obstacles on the way to finding his fabled brother. Some of his fellow Vikings whom he meets on the road warn him of impending doom and try to steer him away from secret bands of Saxons that could derail his mission entirely. Not-so-secret bands of Saxons also attack the three warriors, intent on killing them in the belief that it will help their cause once the war starts. Steinar and his men also find trouble when they come across a young woman named Agnes (Alexandra Dowling) who is about to get stoned to death. The chivalrous Steinar saves her, risking his own life for a stranger. Between this act of selflessness and the warrior's edge he is slowly honing from daily battle, perhaps Steinar is the leader the Vikings really need, whether or not he finds his long-lost brother.

Though the film is set more than a thousand years ago, some parts of the film are very modern, such as some of the more colorful insults and curses that the characters hurl at each other. The soundtrack features quite a bit of dubstep that will get audience members' toes tapping. This isn't the first time that someone in the film industry has used new music in an old setting; Quentin Tarantino did it to great effect in "Django Unchained." In "Hammer of the Gods," director Farren Blackburn takes this potentially risky move and uses it to his advantage. With fresh music and a great beat that is the perfect tempo for the action, Blackburn creates action and fight scenes that are a visual and aural delight. The mixture of old-world grit and landscapes with today's music and sensibilities turns out to be quite fun and occasionally riveting.

Though the fight scenes are what make the movie so entertaining, it has a solid script and plot supplied by screenwriter Matthew Read. This is only his third feature-length screenplay, with the bulk of his work having been done from the producer's chair on past projects. He is probably best known for his work on several Agatha Christie television movies, which is a far cry from the testosterone-fueled "Hammer of the Gods." Who would have thought that someone who produced the quiet, dignified, and elegant mysteries of the famed whodunit author could write such bombastic, violent, and decidedly inelegant characters in this film? It shows that Read has a real range in his abilities, which will probably serve him well as his career continues.

The movie market these days has no shortage of action films, but some of them hold back in order to be a little more accessible to a wider audience. Many also cast big-name actors in lead roles in order to try and sell more tickets. "Hammer of the Gods" doesn't have any movie stars in it, because it doesn't have the budget to cast such an actor. The great thing about low-budget films is that they don't have to sell as many tickets in order to make back their modest production costs. That allows the directors to take more risks, which Blackburn is clearly not afraid to do. The result is an unapologetically macho, action-packed film that will please fans of the genre.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5