A highly underrated historical splat fest from the UK that has run
afoul of critics both amateur and professional (it currently holds a 4.5
imdb rating) whoíve questioned its historical accuracy. What those
critics seem to have overlooked (as they so often do) is the
entertainment factor, in which area this film has plenty to recommend.
HAMMER OF THE GODS arrived in 2013. It had the
misfortune to follow a plethora of similarly themed films like BEOWULF
AND GRENDEL, 300, BLACK DEATH, VALHALLA RISING and
CENTURION, and so
didnít seem quite as novel or interesting as it might have 5-10 years
earlier. It did, however, receive a limited theatrical release courtesy
of Magnet Releasing.
Incidentally, the filmís producers Rupert Preston and
Huberta von Liel teamed up for another medieval splatter-thon in 2015ís
SWORD OF VENGEANCE, whose reception essentially matched that of HAMMER
OF THE GODS.
Britain, 871 AD: the young Viking warrior Steinar is
given a mission by his dying father, King Bagsecg: hunt down his errant
brother Hakan, who was banished from the kingdom years earlier. Steinar
accepts, and heads off on a two day ride to find Ivar the Boneless,
together with his wimpy brother Vali and fellow warriors Grim, Jokul and
Hagen. Ivar the Boneless, it seems, was Hakanís right-hand man, but got
sent away after making a ďmistakeĒ with a couple of boys.
A day into their journey Steinarís band happens upon a
woman being stoned by several men. They attempt to rescue her by
massacring the men, but when she fails to display sufficient gratitude
Grim kills her. Later they happen upon Ivar the Boneless, who, following
an arm wrestling contest Steiner ďwinsĒ by thrusting a snake at Ivarís
crotch, agrees to lead Steinar and his men to Hakan. Accompanying them
is Agnes, a hot chick who provides the requisite love interest for
What follows is a skirmish with enemy warriors in which
Grim is killed by a sword thrust through his skull. Another skirmish
sees the guys detained by Hakanís agents, but they quickly escape. Ivar
goes mad shortly thereafter and is killed by Steinar.
They eventually reach Hakanís forbidding cave-bound
layer, where Steinar is detained by Hakanís brainwashed agents. There he
meets his long-lost brother, and further mayhem ensues.
As a history lesson HAMMER OF THE GODS is pretty
worthless, with director Farren Blackburn trying a little too hard to
give the proceedings a hip--i.e. Quentin Tarantino-esque--overlay,
evident in the profanity-laden dialogue (sample line: ďsomeone tried
to fuck with youĒ) and opening credits sequence, in which the
protagonistsí names appear onscreen a la RESERVOIR DOGS.
Note also the highly revealing costumes, the sleeveless vest-like
contraption worn by lead actor Charlie Bewley in particular.
Otherwise, however, the film works. Itís energetic and
well staged, and the horror movie arc--it is a literal journey into the
heart of darkness--certainly worked for me. In the lead role Mr. Bewley
is reasonably charismatic (although Elliot Cowan, who plays his evil
brother, is better), and heís complimented by appropriately stark and
unglamorous field-and-cliffside scenery.
Of course itís the ultra-gory battle scenes that are
this filmís primary reason for being. Theyíre done in the SAVING PRIVATE
RYAN manner thatís become so popular, utilizing ultra-mobile, jerky
handheld camerawork and a great deal of gore, with multiple stabbings,
slashings and dismemberments that occur at a rate of about one (or more)
every couple minutes. Profound it isnít, but I was entertained.
HAMMER OF THE GODS
Director: Farren Blackburn
Producers: Rupert Preston, Huberta Von Liel
Screenplay: Matthew Read
Cinematography: Stephan Pehrsson
Editing: Sam Williams
Cast: Charlie Bewley, Elliot Cowan, Clive Standen, Guy Flanagan, Michael
Jibson, Glynis Barber, James Cosmo, Alexandra Dowling