If you can, try to sweep past the dull blasé action cover that adorns director Farren Blackburns’ feature debut, Hammer of Gods. To be honest don’t invest too much stock in the title either which, in its giant silver lettering, looks like the proud wrapping for a boy’s action figure. Past that, there’s a film here that doesnt deliver the action it promises, but ain’t half bad either.
Prince Steinar (Charlie Bewley) is sent by his dying father to retrieve a long lost and ferocious brother who is likely to be apt at leading the Norse empire in its battle against the Saxons. However, conspiracy and the dangers of an alien land plague the Prince’s journey, forcing him and his band of warriors to fight for survival.
This is a Norse action film, in the vein of Valhalla Rising, brutal and bloody and most of all gritty. The energy of the story and the frantic bloody nature of hand to hand combat is refreshing, but not nearly enough. Though some of the fights can seem a little sloppy most of them are well choreographed bits of what-for courtesy of 871A.D.
Some decisions seem utterly preposterous, why someone thought each of Steinar’s warriors had to be introduced through giant gimmicky silver lettering is beyond me, you can almost hear Jimmy Hart chanting out the names as they pop up. In the same fight, a ridiculous amount of CGI lightening ripples the background, punctuating a sea of Norse ships preparing to land. It looks like a great Tekken arena, but is far too much for a film that very quickly proves its heart is in basic, grounded, action: sans effects. That is, if you ignore the omnipresent, utterly evil CGI blood.
Excellent use of set and natural location ensures a steady tone and mood: brutal violence and fights, a grey pallatte, and some of the most beautiful scenery matched to the Norse world since Valhalla. Though the settings can sometimes be overbearing to the point where the film seems like an advert for a charming, if gruelling, hike in the Scottish highlands.
Unfortunately Hammer of Gods goes on for far too long, but there is substance to the finale that proves the cuts could be made to the main body of the film where too much meandering across gloomy moors and mountain tops becomes inevitably dull. Some interesting characters punctuate the Prince’s journey: James Cosmo appears as the violence-craving Norse King, whilst Ivan Kaye pops up as a forbidding man-rapist named Ivar. Beyond these inductions, too much time is wasted on scenery and ultimately pointless scuffles.
A gritty, brutal, and surprisingly enjoyable action adventure in the vein of Valhalla Rising and Black Death, Hammer of Gods is worth a watch if you’re big on back-to-basics kinds of combat films. There’s plenty of things wrong with it, but enough is right to ensure an enjoyable watch.
Dir: Farren Blackburn
Stars: Charlie Bewley, Clive Standing, James Cosmo, Ivan Kaye, Glynis Barber