There are a lot of films out there that tackle crime. Some of these explore its impact on the families of these criminals. These are rich criminals with fun gangster names and big Cadillac’s, whose wives have to run out of the house with all the jewels and fur coats they can snatch up before the FBI arrives.
This is not what interests director Christian Sparkes. With his sophomore feature film Sparkes seeks to dig deeper and explore the complexities of a regular family, the dynamic of the father and son relationship is examined and put to the test in the most heinous circumstance that they could possibly face. What Hammer shows us is what happens when a suburban family with a wayward son involved in criminal activity brings that peril to their doorstep. How far will you go to protect your son?
The story starts at breakneck speed with a drug deal gone horribly awry. Shots are fired, violence ensues and Chris (Mark O’Brien) is now on the run. It’s a small town and his estranged father (Will Patton) sees him tearing across the street on a dirt bike, soon he is able to track down his son and discovers his has messed up again. He is now forced to reckon with his sons mistakes as they try to deal with the aftermath together.
Will Patton is at the top of his game with a performance so believable and heartbreaking that deserves recognition. Mark O’Brien (Ready or Not) plays opposite Patton with just as much enthusiasm and gravitas. The two of them absolutely sell what is on screen and bring down-to-earth, realistic truth to these two men who are at the end of their wills.
Perhaps even better than their perspective performances is the writing. Director Christian Sparkes handles the writing duties here as well, bringing together these themes that dig just a little bit deeper. Familial loyalty is strong, the relationship between a father and a son is strong. Both can be really good, or incredibly toxic. As the opioid crisis continues to dismantle families across the country, this particular story seems to hit a little closer to the heart. This family lead a typical suburban life. Two boys who grew up playing soccer and seemingly given a loving home and afforded every opportunity to succeed.
Do good people just go bad? Does having a son caught up in criminal dealings mean that the parent has failed in some way? Does the wake of dead bodies need to be taken care of by dad, as some way of protecting his child? The shrapnel of bad choices is carried far and wide and effects many. This is not just about “bad guys” and “good guys”, the murky waters of a father morality are pushed to their absolute limits and it is riveting to watch.
The combination of Patton and O’Brien’s strong performances and a competent director in Sparkes make this a must see!
4 out of 5.