THE HAMMER (2008)
Starring Adam Carolla, Oswaldo Castillo, Heather Juergensen, Harold House Moore, Jonathan Hernandez, Chris Darga, Constance Zimmer, Tom Quinn and Jane Lynch.
Screenplay by Kevin Hench.
Directed by Charles Herman-Wurmfeld.
Distributed by The Weinstein Company. 88 minutes. Rated R.
Perhaps the biggest surprise about radio jock/comedian/dancing star Adam Carolla’s starring film debut is that despite a very clichéd, horribly dumb story line, it really doesn’t suck.
In fact, it’s actually pretty good.
Who’d have thought?
I’m not saying that as a put-down to Carolla. I’m actually a big fan. He’s a very funny guy, but subtlety and… you know… acting seemed a little out of the snarkmaster’s range.
However, The Hammer works for much the same reason that Carolla’s old friend and The Man Show partner Jimmy Kimmel’s talk show works. He is not afraid to be completely politically incorrect, sometimes unlikable, completely over the top and at the same time oddly human. He takes things that seem obvious and overdone and completely subverts them.
What it is mostly subverting, though, is Rocky Balboa. In fact, to a certain extent it is that film played for laughs – with a touch of The Natural, The Rookie and Invincible tossed in for good measure. The laughs are not always as good as they should be, but there are enough to keep you watching.
Carolla plays Jerry “The Hammer” Ferro, a forty-year-old former Golden Gloves Boxer who now works as a carpenter and picks up some side revenue teaching a few boxing classes. (In real life, Carolla was a boxing instructor before breaking in to show biz, so he pulls off the boxing scenes with skill). Jerry is smart, funny and completely happy to float through life with no goals or ambitions.
Everything changes on his 40th birthday, in which he impulsively gets himself fired from his carpentry job, loses his longtime girlfriend (Constance Zimmer) and then happens to be seen fighting by a boxing trainer (Tom Quinn) who suggests that he may have a chance to make it to the Olympics if he just got back into shape.
Jerry starts training for the tryouts and gets into a contentious relationship with an up-and-coming boxer (Harold House Moore). He also starts in on a sweet-but-entirely-unrealistic courtly relationship with a cute woman (Heather Juergensen) who is taking one of his boxing classes.
Carolla is a very funny comedian, and as was mentioned earlier, he has the skills to play a boxer. As far as an actual actor, Carolla isn’t overly talented. He has the comedian’s acting curse – everything is a joke for him so it’s played on a very surface level for maximum snideness. Then again, this is The Hammer not Hamlet, so perhaps great chops as a thespian are kind of beside the point. You see Jerry as a wisecracking standup comic throughout, but enough of his wisecracks are clever that you can forgive the lack of shading and subtlety.
Like I said, there is no real reason this movie should work. It is a way overdone storyline. Boxing is rather passé in the modern world (mixed martial arts, anybody?). It has a non-professional actor in its lead role. The characters and humor are broad and the love story feels forced. Even if you did have hopes for it, there is also the concern that it was only given a cursory theatrical run before getting snuck out on video.
Yet, somehow, the movie does mostly work. No one will ever confuse The Hammer with a masterpiece, however it is legitimately funny through most of the running time. That is all it really needs to achieve.
Copyright ©2008 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: June 15, 2008.