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Hammer of the Gods

2013 | 99 min | R | 2.39:1

Hammer of the Gods


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Theatrical release date

 05 July, 2013
 30 August, 2013

Country of origin

 United Kingdom



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Screenshots from Hammer of the Gods Blu-ray

Hammer of the Gods Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, July 4, 2013

If I didn’t know better, I might’ve presumed that “Hammer of the Gods” was created by a team of 9th graders out to entertain themselves after learning a little about the history of the Vikings. Actually, that movie would likely be more fun and coherent than what’s found its way onscreen. Pointlessly graphic and absolutely ridiculous, “Hammer of the Gods” is a poorly attended LARP event crossed with basic cable fantasy filmmaking standards. It certainly endeavors to create a tempest of heaving testosterone with its population of bearded, shirtless men swinging rusty swords while growling, but the effort as a whole is excruciatingly unremarkable, with dreary tech credits and a cast taking performance cues from the local Renaissance Fair.

In 871, the Vikings and Saxtons are battling for control of the land, with armies slowly gathering for a final battle. As son of King Bagsecg (James Cosmo), Viking warrior Steinar (Charlie Bewley) is making his way back to his father’s camp, receiving word of a mortal wound that threatens to transform simpering older brother Harald (Finlay Robertson) into a leader. Made aware of a lost sibling named Hakan (Elliot Cowan) who was banished a long time ago, Steinar gathers his troops, including Hagen (Clive Standen) and Grim (Michael Jibson), and sets out to locate his brother, with hopes to lure him back into the family, thus shutting down Harald’s suspicious power play. As they cross into dangerous territory, superstitious Viking men warn of impending doom, determined Saxton patrols complicate the mission, and a run-in with monstrous Ivar (Ivan Kaye) threatens to prevent Steinar from restoring proper leadership to his people.

It’s interesting to note that “Hammer of the Gods” was scripted by Matthew Read, who assisted with writing duties on Nicolas Winding Refn’s 2009 Viking brain-bleeder, “Valhalla Rising.” Perhaps feeling an urge to continue this creative journey, Read returns to windy lands of perpetual overcast conditions, following men as they battle the elements and one another on a banal mission that takes a puzzlingly mystical turn in its third act. What’s missing here is Refn’s concentration and ability to construct a puzzle worth the investment of screen time. Read and director Farren Blackburn flail from the get-go, failing to establish a credible period setting, while the story is reheated adventuring marked by brutal violence that renders the picture more calculated than unhinged, always boiling aggression to make up for uncomfortably minimal production values. “Hammer of the Gods” didn’t have much of a budget to begin with and the frugality reveals itself in every scene.

Basically, “Hammer of the Gods” is a tepid quest in need of stakes. There are battles along the way, with Steinar and his men getting into a few scrapes with Saxtons and bystanders, with one encounter teasing heroism as the group interrupts the stoning of a captive woman. It does not end valiantly. These are brutes, and ones dedicated to a belief in omens, doubting their leader as all signs point to doom, creating discord in the group. However, while questions of faith and its incontestable direction are fascinating, they ultimately lead nowhere in particular, and action sequences are cringingly simplistic in terms of choreography and rapid-fire editing, carrying a stiff theme park stunt show vibe as flat locations swallow the frantic actors, diluting intended fury. “Hammer of the Gods” aims to be epic with treacherous characters and naturalistic displays (cooked in post-production to generate ominous conditions), but there’s nothing substantial to the story or the filmmaking that expresses such enormity. And Read’s dialogue is the pits, resorting to copious amounts of profanity to preserve edge. It cheapens what’s already an inferior production.

The third act dives into madness, encountering cannibal Hakan inside his mysterious cave dwelling as a few revelations are released and fisticuffs ensue. The climax doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but little about “Hammer of the Gods” does (characters are suggested rather than established). It’s content to simply be a roughhouse picture with vague historical and mythological influences, struggling to put up a massive fight with limited resources, and all of it, every last grunt, gash, and F-word, registers as amateur hour.

Starring: Charlie Bewley, Clive Standen, James Cosmo, Elliot Cowan, Glynis Barber
Director: Farren Blackburn

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