"The Hammer" reminded me quite a bit of Artie Lange's "Beer League;" the overall feeling being that to best appreciate the charms of the picture, it helps to be able to stomach the star of the show. Adam Carolla isn't everyone's cup of tea, but the man can sling around an acidic one-liner with the best of them, and his starring debut is a familiar, but persuasively funny brew of clichés and belly laughs.
40 years-old and fired from his construction job, Jerry (Adam Carolla) is looking for a change of luck. A former amateur boxer, Jerry finds himself drawn back into the ring with aspirations of joining the Olympic team. With his trusty sidekick Oswaldo (Oswaldo "Ozzie" Castillo) and a new love interest in his life (Heather Juergensen), Jerry hopes to reverse his fortune by fighting opponents half his age. When he starts racking up victories, Jerry begins to see an actual result from his hard labor, only to find that those who have included him on the boxing circuit didn't actually believe he could accomplish anything.
There's really no middle ground to be comforted with here: either you find the nasally, caustic mind of Adam Carolla funny or you don't. "The Hammer," born from a story by Carolla, is swathed in the comedian's arch sense of humor, though it's more sensitive than the star's primitive "Man Show" past ever hinted at.
Credit most of this softening to director Charles Herman-Wurmfeld, who is obviously working with a five-dollar budget here, but remains quite successful setting a low-tech tone for "Hammer" that's cordial enough to support Carolla's distinct shtick. With the repellent "Legally Blonde 2" and "Kissing Jessica Stein" in his back pocket, it's a pleasure to see the filmmaker much more relaxed this time out, permitting the jokes a chance to sink in and allowing Carolla space for his signature timing. This is not a glossy feature film, yet Herman-Wurmfeld sets a friendly tone that embraces the charisma of the actors without the need for excessive polish.
The "Hammer" story is nothing to write home about, and often uses eye-rolling cliché to piece itself into an actual, sellable movie. Watching Carolla be Carolla in the film is enough, but there are hard to swallow dramatic requirements that need attending to, especially with a lead who's pretty much based an entire career around not being taken seriously. "Hammer" is considerably more confident as a light comedy, with Jerry facing obstacles left and right that prevent him from being respected in the ring and in life. The film is comfortable there, and that ease allows for rich situations of comedy to flourish, especially in the hilarious interplay between Jerry and Oswaldo, and Jerry's insistence on asserting his knowledge of construction minutiae wherever he can.
The visual experience of "The Hammer" is muted, but detail and black levels remain strong throughout. The anamorphic widescreen image (1.85:1 aspect ratio) feels comfortable and focused, nicely masking the film's budgetary limitations. Fleshtones look accurate.
The 5.1 Dolby Digital mix is great with gym atmospherics and fight sequences, keeping the viewer involved in the sporting angle of the story. Soundtrack selections and dialogue are satisfactorily separated, though Castillo's lines are often hard to decipher.
English for the Hearing Impaired and Spanish subtitles are included.
The audio commentary with Carolla and writer/co-producer Kevin Hench is expectedly sarcastic, jokey, and filled with anecdotes on the making of the picture. It breaks down like this: Carolla loves to riff on everything that's in front of him and Hench laughs dutifully. Some highlights:
- Many of the locations were actually taken from Carolla's employment history.
- Hench hates the critics who gave "Hammer" a bad review.
- There's some talk about Carolla's stint on "Dancing with the Stars" offered to fans.
- The production had a little trouble getting people to show up for their parts.
- Co-star Juergensen is Hench's wife. He proceeds to make fun of her body.
- Carolla discusses the wonders of having a body double for insignificant scenes.
It's a lighthearted, funny discussion, only turning venomous when the concept of film critics is raised. Sheesh! It's still worth a listen.
Deleted Scenes (9:36) offers trimmed rants on Dale Earnhardt, illegal immigrants, dating small talk, spackling tips, belt-sander dangers, incest, finding Jesus, and features some tar pit improv.
An Outtake reel (4:46) shows off the goofs, along with Carolla's frighteningly quick mind.
"A Conversation with Adam & Ozzie" (17:11) takes a camera inside Carolla's radio show studio to chat with the co-stars, covering their history together and their relationship today. A discussion of acting techniques also pops up in the talk.
"Behind-the-Scenes Promotional Segments" (10:36) is an assortment of short featurettes covering the production of the film. Everything is sold with Carolla's humor right up front.
"Ozzie's ADR Session" (1:57) is an audio clip of Castillo in the looping booth trying his best to not murder the English language.
A Still Gallery with 60 shots from "The Hammer" is offered.
And a Theatrical Trailer for the film is presented on this DVD.
"Hammer" is a solid leading-man debut for Carolla, and his personality carries the picture a long way. I'm not quite convinced I'm ready to see him emote like Brando just yet, but he can surely light up a film with his acerbic wit and cockeyed perspective.
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