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The Hammer is the nickname of Jerry Ferro (Adam Carolla), a former amateur boxer turned carpenter. Most people think he got the moniker because he builds stuff, but the truth is it comes from his Golden Gloves days, when his left was a force to be reckoned with. On his 40th birthday, Jerry has a serious case of the blues. A workplace prank gets him and his best friend, the barely understandable Nicaraguan immigrant Ozzy (Oswaldo Castillo), both fired, and his girlfriend (Constance Zimmer) has left him.
About the only thing that has gone right for him is earning $100 to take a couple of punches in the ring at his gym. Knocking out a would-be champ (Jeff Lacy) gets Jerry noticed by the fighter's trainer (Tom Quinn) and a try-out for a spot on his ticket for regional Olympic trials. He also meets Lindsay (Heather Juergensen), a cute public defender who is taking his boxing class. Things are looking up for the Hammer, and he could be on the comeback trail if he can only keep his act together.
The Hammer is kind of a rare duck. You don't hear about many independent sports comedies these days. Based on a story by Carolla, who is better known as a TV host and radio personality, and written by Kevin Hench, a regular contributor to Carolla and Jimmy Kimmel projects, the movie doesn't exactly aim high in terms of originality. There isn't a single scene in this movie that you haven't seen before, and the pedestrian direction of Charles Herman-Wurmfeld (Kissing Jessica Stein, Legally Blonde 2) doesn't do much to help distinguish the pic among its peers.
And yet, I have to admit to having a huge smile on my face when The Hammer was over. The movie about an underdog boxer who makes good turns out to be an overachieving underdog itself.
This film rides entirely on the shoulders of Adam Carolla, and the talk DJ proves he can pull a lot of weight. Most of the scenes of any note feature the performer unleashing his gift of gab. This means sharp put-downs in the gym scenes and good-natured puffballs in the dating sequences. In some cases, Wurmfeld and editor Rich Fox appear stymied as to which of Carolla's ad libs to choose, and so they do the only smart thing and edit a bunch of the one-liners together. The comedian does a full minute on the La Brea Tar Pits alone, and had they given him an even wider field to run in, The Hammer could have been a pretty hilarious movie. Honestly, I'm shocked by how clean Carolla plays it. The former Loveline and Man Show host and current Dancing with the Stars participant isn't known as a family comedian, and since the film is rated R already, why not let him go wild?
Even without the potty mouth, the movie works in spite of itself. The romance between Jerry and Lindsay is surprisingly tender, and Ozzy makes for a solid comic foil. Even the boxing stuff manages to lather up some genuine excitement. Sure, there are quite a few stiff supporting performances and the ending couldn't be more cornball even if they literally chucked a ball of corn straight at your head, and yet, as I said, I can't deny that I liked it.
It ain't high art, and I'm not even sure it's good low art, but The Hammer somehow manages to outlast the bell. Yes, that's damning with feint praise, but to borrow from the man himself, it's not really in Jerry Ferro's DNA to go all the way. He's fine with that, and so am I.
Jamie S. Rich is a novelist and comic book writer. He is best known for his collaborations with Joelle Jones, including the hardboiled crime comic book You Have Killed Me, the challenging romance 12 Reasons Why I Love Her, and the 2007 prose novel Have You Seen the Horizon Lately?, for which Jones did the cover. All three were published by Oni Press. His most recent projects include the futuristic romance A Boy and a Girl with Natalie Nourigat; Archer Coe and the Thousand Natural Shocks, a loopy crime tale drawn by Dan Christensen; and the horror miniseries Madame Frankenstein, a collaboration with Megan Levens. Follow Rich's blog at Confessions123.com.