Tuesday, October 29, 2013

HAMMER OF THE GODS: Matthew Read/Farren Blackburn's naughty Norsemen saga surprises

Warning: TrustMovies was ready to hit the STOP button on this film after the first scene -- in which a young boy on a cliff above the sea notices a Norse ship arriving, runs to warn his Saxon people, after which the occupants of that ship decimate the menfolk of the village and then one of them cavalierly says, "They were just fucking farmers" or something of that ilk. Ah, the entitlement of the Vikings! Still, we haven't had a decent Viking saga in a long while, so if you are in the mood for some-thing a bit Beowulfy (but without any Grendel, not to mention his dam), HAMMER OF THE GODS, now available via Netflix streaming, just might do the trick.

Did I say no Viking sagas? Well, there was Valhalla Rising, in which, as he most often does, Nicolas Winding Refn sacrifices his movie on the altar of style and violence. Hammer of the Gods certainly has plenty of the latter, but fortunately it doesn't shove the former so fully in our faces. (Scenery-wise, it's quite nice to look at, though.) The movie also has a pretty good plot, which unveils itself quickly and proceeds along at a sprightly pace, as directed by Farren Blackburn (above), from a screenplay by Matthew Read.

The story here is simple but effective: Old King (James Cosmo, above, right) is having trouble keeping his subjects, not to mention his conquered, in tow, so he sends son #2, called Steinar (played by Charlie Bewley, above, left, and below, right), to find his previously banished son #1 (Hakan, played by Elliot Cowan, below, left), taking along son #2's little band of stalwarts, along with the frightened and somewhat groveling bastard-son of the king (Theo Barklem-Biggs).

Along the way, adventures occur, usually of the clanking-swords and spurting-blood variety. A young woman (Alexandra Dowling, below) is added into the mix -- surprise! -- then later an older, sexier one (blond oomph-babe, Glynnis Barber) arrives on the scene.

The most fun, however, is provided by an actor named Francis Magee (below), playing a fellow named Ulric, whom our little band needs to direct it toward son #1. On the IMDB description of Hammer..., there's a mention of a gay slur used in the film. Well, all right, but since Ulric himself appears to be gay and proud of it -- he arm-wrestles son #2, whom he calls "Princess," telling him that, should he win, he'll bed down "Princess" for the night and show him a real good time -- I  think we can forgive that slur. As Ulric puts it, or something to this effect, "Doesn't matter how great a fighter you are, you play around with a couple of boys, and your reputation goes south!"  Mr. Magee has a grand time in this role, and so do we, watching him.

In terms of plot surprises, Hammer saves its best for the last -- always wise -- and its best is pretty damned good. The finale is creepy in a whole new manner, and I'll say no more so you'll just have to view the movie to feel those "creeps" coming on.

Hammer of the Gods is available now via Netflix streaming, Amazon Instant Video, and perhaps elsewhere -- as well as on DVD & Blu-ray.

All photos are from the film itself, save that of Mr. Blackburn, 
which comes courtesy of Robert Viglasky

No comments: