Writer-director Christian Sparkes’ 2020 film, Hammer is an intriguing dramatic thriller which works well despite its limited scope. The film is anchored by a wonderfully rich performance by the great Will Patton, a long-standing supporting actor who is given the opportunity to shine in a lead role. You can almost imagine Hammer as the type of film which would have come out of Hollywood in the 1950s, with an actor like Van Heflin in the Patton part.
Patton is Stephen Davis, the father of two grown-up boys who faces a serious challenge when he discovers that his estranged son Chris (Mark O’Brien) decided to double cross his drug dealing partner Adams, (Ben Cotton) and make-off with not only his drugs and cash, but also his girlfriend Lori (Dayle McLeod). When Lori is shot during the escape, Chris leaves her for dead along with the cash and drugs, but with Adams on his trail, Chris needs the help of his dad to survive and find the abandoned loot.
Over the decades Will Patton has delivered outstanding supporting performances alongside such A-listers as Bruce Willis, Kevin Costner, Gene Hackman, Nicolas Cage, John Travolta and Sean Connery (to name but a few). Hammer gives him the opportunity to stand in the spotlight and deliver a career best turn. His work as the desperate father who will help his son at any cost is wonderfully layered, it’s not showy work – it’s real. It would be great if Patton achieves enough momentum from Hammer so that he can score a few more juicy roles like this one.
The rest of Hammer’s cast also do good work. Mark O’Brien works well with Patton as his estranged ne’er-do-well son and his desperation is tangible. Another impressive performance comes Vickie Papavs as Chris’ mother and Stephen’s wife. On the surface it appears that she has little to do, but her quiet stoicism helps anchor the film, so that the dramatic action never drifts too far from its emotional core. Ben Cotton’s turn as the the villain of the piece is a little one-note and one or two of his plot contrivances give the film a couple of wobbles on occasion.
It’s easy for a film like Hammer to slip through the cracks. Christian Sparkes’ film isn’t an easy sell to the masses due to the lack of a major star or the added bonus of explosions and gunplay. Instead, it’s an old-fashioned piece of cinema which has the focus on the performances. It’s confident in what it wants to achieve and it comes recommended due to the great turn by Will Patton.