Blu-ray Review: A Bag of Hammers



A Bag of Hammers is a mixed bag of a film that does some things very well, and other things not so well. One of the things it does best is set a comedic tone through the interaction of all the characters that persists throughout the story, which only lets up when the film dabbles into some of the more serious issues that the characters must work through, which really helps drive those points home well.

The film stars Jason Ritter and Jake Sandvig as Ben and Alan, two best friends who escaped their bad childhoods by running off together and learning to fend for themselves. And learn they did, as the two run a successful business boosting cars by posing as valets at funerals. They then bring the car to their “boss,” Marty (Todd Louiso), who buys them for cash. All in all, this allows Ben and Alan to live a rather comfortable, worry-free life, where they do as they like, while also helping out Alan’s sister, Mel (Rebecca Hall), financially as well.

Things take an unexpected turn, however, when Alan and Ben rent out the property they own that’s adjacent to theirs to a mother and her young boy. The woman, Lynette (Carrie Preston) immediately asks Alan if it’s okay that she pays her rent a bit late, to which Alan lowers the rent on the spot and tells her not to worry.

While this would help most, Lynette is having some serious problems finding work, and with an ex-husband who wants nothing to do with her or her son Kelsey (Chandler Canterbury), things are bound to get worse before they get better. It doesn’t take long before Mel begins to suspect Lynette of neglecting her son, which leads to a series of events that nobody could have expected – least of all Ben and Alan, who are finally forced to look in a mirror and see if they’re really living their lives the way they should be.

While A Bag of Hammers maintains a solid message throughout (if you ignore the fact that these two guys are petty thieves), there’s a serious lack of obstacles for the two main characters to overcome, as everything constantly falls in their favour, be it by luck, coincidence, or a bit of both. This causes the film to lose a bit of credibility, as it never really feels like there’s anything truly at stake for anyone involved. Even though the overall lighthearted tone of the film makes it somewhat understandable why co-writers Brian Crano and Sandvig didn’t delve deep into the dramatic aspects of the story, it’s still not ideal to make it so that there’s rarely any consequences or opposing factors to a film’s protagonists, as it just takes away from the overall product.

That said, Hammers is still enjoyable, and quite funny, thanks to the great chemistry that Ritter and Sandvig share on screen. The two act as if they really have known one another since childhood, and the back and forth discussions between the two really are the highlights of the film. It must also be said that Ritter is a wonderful talent, as he really embodies the slacker with a heart character of Ben perfectly. While Sandvig is also great (along with the excellent supporting cast), Ritter really takes the part he was given and hits a homerun.

Shortcomings aside, A Bag of Hammers is definitely worth watching, especially if you’re in the mood for some lighthearted fun mixed with a great underlying message, and a few heavier moments as the film progresses.

The audio/video transfer for the film is solid throughout. The video quality is strong in the Blu-ray format, with sharp images, strong colours and an overall great look that suits the films themes – especially in one of the final scenes. The audio quality is also well done, with dialogue and soundtrack mixing perfectly with no strain anywhere in sight.

Behind the Scenes – This is a featurette that runs just under 11 minutes in length which sees co-writer/director Brian Crano talk about the film, the messages and just how it all came to be. Ritter and Sandvig also share their thoughts on the film, along with other members of the supporting cast.

A Bag of Hammers has some great themes behind it, and while the overall structure of the film may not be the strongest, the ideas presented come across clearly enough that one can see the positives in what the writers were trying to express. This, along with some great acting and an overall enjoyable, eccentric tone help make A Bag of Hammers worth recommending.

MPI Home Video presents A Bag of Hammers. Directed by: Brian Crano. Written by: Brian Crano and Jake Sandvig. Starring: Jake Sandvig, Jason Ritter, Chandler Canterbury, Todd Louiso, Rebecca Hall, Carrie Preston. Running time: 85 minutes. Rating: Not Rated. Released: July 10, 2012. Available at Amazon.com.

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