The HammerI’ve got to be perfectly honest: when I heard about this movie I was less than thrilled. It seemed like exactly the kind of low-budget, unfunny bit of lowest common denominator humor that I try to stay away from. But after hesitantly checking out the trailer I changed my mind completely. Adam Carolla, known for his  biting wit on the radio shows Loveline and The Adam Carolla Show - and of course television’s The Man Show - comes off like a slightly more brutish Norm MacDonald and his one-liners seemed like enough to drive any film… and if we’re being honest here, I knew that my wife loved Loveline as much as any radio show she’d ever listened to. Made for less than a million dollars, this underdog of a movie about an underdog carpenter/ex-boxer may not be a solid chunk of cinema gold, but it’s the best piece of cinema pyrite I’ve found in a while.

Unfolding in fairly standard sports comedy film style, the audience is introduced to the affable Jerry Ferro (Carolla), a carpenter that drives a ragged truck and can’t seem to catch a break. On his 40th birthday Ferro and his Nicaraguan friend (Carolla’s friend Oswaldo Castillo) get fired from their construction job after Ferro runs a sander through his boss’s windshield. That night his girlfriend leaves him. But as Adam Sandler fans know, when the everyman hits rock bottom, that’s when something good comes around. As Ferro is practicing (and coaching) at the local gym where he works he meets an attractive public defender (Heather Juergensen from Kissing Jessica Stein) and accidentally makes an impression on a U.S. Olympics boxing trainer. Ferro then begins the Rocky-like training sequences, though his training at first involves boozing and sleeping in.

The story is kept light and there’s no gross-out humor or excessive swearing (though the film is still rated R for some reason). The love story that develops is also surprisingly sweet and almost relatively innocent. It’s a feel good story about a slacker with a heart of gold that learns to fight for his dreams and succeeds in the best way possible. Like Norm MacDonald, Carolla’s humor is as dry as humor comes and this aspect of his personality is exploited constantly, sometimes almost too often, as when Carolla is given free rein to repeatedly comment on the La Brea Tar Pits or his boxing partner’s slow driving. At times the humor feels a bit too stand-up based, but for the most part it’s entertaining throughout. By the end I as almost surprised at how much I liked the movie. Heather Juergensen is fun to watch as a love interest and Oswaldo Castillo is a Grade-A sidekick. In it’s theatrical run the film grossed a little over $400K, so a healthy DVD life should put the production company above the mark.

Zach’s Rating: B
Perfect For: The viewer looking for an independent film that actually delivers
Stay Away if: You want big-time film quality or big-budget action

To purchase The Hammer, visit Amazon

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