Hammer (1972) / Drama-Action
MPAA Rated: R for violence, language, drug content, nudity and sexuality
Running time: 92 min.
Cast: Fred Williamson, Vonetta McGee, Bernie Hamilton, William Smith, Charles Lampkin, Elizabeth Harding, Mel Stewart, D'Urville Martin
Cameo: Marilyn Joi, Fred Berry
Director: Bruce Clark
Screenplay: Charles Eric Johnson
Review published May 1, 2011
Former professional football player turned actor Fred Williamson (The Inglorious Bastards, Starsky & Hutch) stars as B.J. Hammer (not so coincidentally, 'The Hammer' was Williamson's nickname in the NFL), a fomer successful boxer working in a warehouse who loses his job after getting into a fight once it is discovered that the dock is a point for a large heroin shipment. A crony of a shady entrepreneur named Big Sid (Lampkin, First Monday in October) sees Hammer's fighting skills and he's recruited back into a life in the boxing ring,
Hammer begins on the bottom, training with a local boxing coach called Professor, while also sparking up a romance with a beauty working for Sid named Lois (McGee, Shaft in Africa). Hammer climbs his way up the boxing ranks, but finds that he's being run by organized crime fixing the matches when he's coerced into throwing his next fight. Hammer's not one to be coerced and soon finds himself the next target of Sid's murderous henchman, Brenner (Smith, Conan the Barbarian).
Williamson's sideburned presence is perhaps the only selling point to this rather pointless blaxploitation action-drama, as he exudes the physical stature, machismo and charisma to become a star in the blossoming black cinema during the 1970s and beyond. His boxing skills, as depicted in this film, won't really fool the experts, but with his lean and chiseled look, he exemplifies the part. His acting skills aren't much better, but given the kind of film this is, it's unlikely that anyone expects much more out of WIlliamson's performance than to kick some criminal butt whenever necessary.
As for the rest, it's a mess, starting with a god-awful script from Charles Johnson (Slaughter's Big Ripoff, Mean Mother) that doles out so-called ghetto slang so inauthentic, the dialogue will either inspire either laughs or irritation, and likely both (I had to turn on subtitles to make sure what they were saying was what I thought they were). The plotline proceeds according to very predictable patterns, and without any choice humor or finely choreographed fight scenes, Hammer is about as boring as blaxploitation films get in its era.
Bruce Clark's (Galaxy of Terror, Naked Angels) direction is about as terrible as the script, vainly utilizing amateurish stylistic touches like wide-angle fistfights and chase scenes that are curiously subdued. The boxing is also among the weakest aspects in a rilm rife with them, as the scenes of training, sparring, and the fights themselves bear only a passing resemblance to the real thing, and definitely will greatly disappoint any viewer looking for a good boxing film. In short, not much entertainment value -- unless you're hammered.
©2011 Vince Leo