Hammer

Produced by low-budget legend Al Adamson, HAMMER is an unimaginative but modestly entertaining boxers-and-mobsters picture with suitably dingy ambiance. Spotted beating the tar out of a thuggish co-worker on the docks, B.J. Hammer (Fred Williamson) is recruited as a boxer for Big Sid (Charles Lampkin), local front for the syndicate. Quickly fighting his...read more

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Produced by low-budget legend Al Adamson, HAMMER is an unimaginative but modestly entertaining boxers-and-mobsters picture with suitably dingy ambiance.

Spotted beating the tar out of a thuggish co-worker on the docks, B.J. Hammer (Fred Williamson) is recruited as a boxer for Big Sid (Charles Lampkin), local front for the syndicate. Quickly fighting his way through the ranks, Hammer is dogged by a cop named Davis (Bernie Hamilton), who warns him

that Sid is crooked and his fights fixed. Racked with self-doubt and spurned by his former buddies who now see him as a member of the bourgeoisie, Hammer hears that his trainer, the Professor (Mel Stewart), is being beaten by syndicate goons in order to convince him to have Hammer take a dive.

Together with Davis, Hammer rousts the goons, but it turns out Hammer's girlfriend, Lois (Vonetta McGee) is being held as insurance that he will lose the bout. While Hammer fights the champ, Davis rescues Lois, allowing Hammer to win. Sid is killed by the syndicate as a result, but Hammer and his

buddies clobber the thugs responsible.

Williamson is an actor of severely limited range. He's good at tough, and at cocky. Conveniently, those are the only qualifications necessary for this role, and he essays it well. Patterned, according to Williamson, after Muhammad Ali, B.J. Hammer is depicted as an upstanding and honorable guy who

gives money to local kids and suffers crippling disillusionment when told that his early wins were all fixed, but he generates little sympathy by coldly walking out on his girlfriend Mary (Nawana Davis) the instant an opportunity arises. True, she's a shrieking shrew, and he's now smitten by Lois,

but when Mary shows up later as a prostitute--and one too proud to take his charitable handout--one can't help thinking he's largely responsible. The film hints at Hammer's conflicted state of mind, but neglects to examine it in any detail, preferring to focus on the trite plot machinations.

Probably the biggest drawback is that for a boxing film the fight scenes are poorly shot and assembled. Never is any tension generated, nor for that matter is there ever a convincing sense of what's going on in the ring, as the too-tight camera swings around cluelessly, revealing the boom

microphone overhead. There's a totally unnecessary and unintegrated subplot about drug smuggling, and the climax plods along with master detective Davis searching desperately for Lois by asking little old ladies sitting on their porches if they happen to have seen her. On the other hand,

established genre heavy William Smith is marvelously menacing as the syndicate's strong-arm man, watching over the proceedings with a jaundiced eye and pummeling or killing anyone who gets in his way.

Prior to scoring small roles on TV and in a handful of films including M*A*S*H (1970), Fred Williamson was a professional football player known as "The Hammer." After this first leading role, he would go on to produce, direct, and/or star in dozens of blaxploitation and genre films of varying

quality, frequently featuring D'Urville Martin (Sonny in HAMMER) as his sidekick and comic foil. Martin would later direct and costar in DOLEMITE (1975), with Rudy Ray Moore, before dying in 1984. Charles Lampkin and Bernie Hamilton had both been acting since the early 1950s, whereas Vonetta McGee

was enjoying her breakthrough year, also starring in BLACULA and MELINDA (both 1972). In a tiny early role, Leon Isaac Kennedy (PENITENTIARY I, II, and III) flits past, billed as Leon Isaac. (Violence, sexual situations, substance abuse, profanity.)

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