Wednesday, June 10, 2015

HAMMER (1972)

HAMMER (1972) 
Label: Olive Films
Region Code: A
Rating: R
Duration: 91 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1)
Director: Bruce Clark
Cast: Fred Williamson, Bernie Hamilton, Vonetta McGee, William Smith

This is the movie that put the "Hammer" in Fred "The Hammer" Williamson, the former pro-footballer tuned blaxploitation/action star's first leading role and it's a pretty decent slice of gritty 70's cinema not something I would classify as an essential piece of blaxploitation cinema, it still packs a punch. B.J. Hammer (Williamson) is a past his prime former boxer working the warehouse district of L.A. when he is fired after wiping the floor with a racist co-worker. Word of his fighting skills reach the ears of mafia-connected boxing promoter Big Sid (Charles Lampkin) he brings Hammer into his corner under the watchful eye of legit trainer the Professor (Mel Stewart). Things look great for the boxer as he works his way through a series of victorious fights and he begins a relationship with Sid's Secretary Lois (Vonetta McGee) but he begins to get some blow back from the neighborhood who accuse the fighter of selling out to the man. Furthermore local cop Davis (Bernie Hamilton) is after Sid who is dabbling in the drug trade> While Hammer initially refuses to believe his new employer is corrupt his attitude changes when Sid demands he take a dive during the next big fight. Crushed by the request Hammer refuses to take the dive, but Sid's right hand man Brenner, played by 70's baddie William Smith, threatens to kill Lois. 

We have a fairly straight story with the usual grittiness you've come to expect from 70's blaxploitation with the usual tropes of crooks, drugs and corruption at play in the inner city. Hammer is a solid piece of cinema but it does lack the style and sleaze of the Jack Hill directed Pam Grier movies I've been watching lately. Fred Williamson has charisma to spare throughout, a straight-shooter caught up in the corruption of the crooked boxing promoter. I did love the fight scenes which were well-paced with some great boxing action with Williams  natural athleticism on display, and the finale is fierce and ends on a high note with an appropriate amount of violence and comeuppance. 

The disc from Olive Films marks the HD debut of the film and might be the first widescreen presentation as well. The trasnfer looks very nice and is sourced from film elements that were in very good shape. The English language DTS-HD MA 2.0 audio is solid if not overwhelming, well-balanced and free of distortion. There are no extras or subtitles for the feature, a bare-bones disc from Olive Films. 2.5/5