Review: Hammer of the Gods / Cert: 18 / Director: Farren Blackburn / Screenplay: Matthew Read / Starring: Charlie Bewley, Clive Standen, Elliot Cowan, James Cosmo, Ivan Kaye / Release Date: September 2nd
British movies have fallen into a bit of a rut in recent years; the small budget features coming out of the UK seem to be either lo-fi, shaky-cam-style horror movies or intensely dull real crime dramas set in London. Hammer of the Gods is a fantasy that bucks this trend, but at the same time sticks to the formula of low budget grittiness.
The movie follows the Viking prince Steinar (played by the Twilight saga’s Charlie Bewley) and his band of thugs as they run around the country looking for his brother, who intends to betray them all. Really, this is an excuse for a series of very violent setpieces that follow on from each other. The plot is not terribly coherent; this is a movie that’s more about big, sweaty, muscular men smacking seven bells out of each other and swearing a lot.
Anyone with a historical sensibility will not enjoy the film; it is pure fantasy that only uses the 9th century as a backdrop for the action. There are enough references to Saxons and Vikings to irk any scholarly pedant, but this really isn’t the point of the feature; this is a visceral murder-fest that will appeal to those who like their low-fantasy drama very gory. There is a lot of unexploited potential here; both Charlie Bewley and Elliot Cowan stand out as particularly brutal protagonists, but aren’t really used to their full effect. At times it almost breaks into a sort of caper movie; Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Axes if you will, but instead of delivering wit and drama, it simply steps up the body count. If you like your history dumb, your men covered in dirt, and lots and lots of gratuitous violence, then this should appeal. Otherwise, it’s not for you.