Hammer of the Gods (18)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner30/08/2013

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 95 mins

Watchable Viking drama enlivened by earthy dialogue, engaging performances and some impressive location work, though the plot is a little underwhelming.

What's it all about?
Directed by Farren Blackburn, Hammer of the Gods is set in 871 AD Britain and stars Charlie Bewley as Steinar, a young Viking warrior summoned by his father, Viking King Bagsecg (James Cosmo – who else?), who is on his deathbed after being fatally injured during an attack on the Saxons. Concerned that neither third son Steinar nor second son Harald (Finlay Robertson) have what it takes to succeed him, Bagsecg sends Steinar on a quest to find his estranged oldest son Hakan (Elliot Cowan), who has reportedly gone native, Apocalypse Now-style, deep in the Saxon heartlands.

Accompanied by loyal fellow warriors Jokul (Guy Flanagan), Grim (Michael Jibson) and Hagen (Clive Standen), as well as his weakling bastard half-brother Vali (Theo Barklem-Briggs), Steinar sets off into hostile territory, but their journey is fraught with danger. Along the way, Steinar receives help from unlikely ally Ivar (Ivan Kaye) and falls for Ivar's young serving woman, Agnes (Alexandra Dowling).

The Good
Bewley (who looks distractingly like David Beckham throughout) makes a solid and engaging lead as Steinar, whose recent rejection of the Viking gods in favour of reason has created tensions even with his own men. Similarly, Flanagan and Jibson make an amusing double act as Jokul and Grim and there's colourful support from Kaye as the bear-like Ivar, whose penchants include drinking, arm-wrestling and buggery.

Blackburn keeps things moving at a decent pace and the realistically brutal fight scenes of Hammer of the Gods are nicely staged, despite obvious budget limitations, while cinematographer Stephan Pehrsson makes terrific use of some striking locations. In addition, the earthy dialogue works well and there are hints of both Game of Thrones and Nicholas Winding Refn's Valhalla Rising, which perhaps isn't that surprising, given that scriptwriter Matthew Read was credited with ‘additional writing’ on Refn's film.

The Bad
The main problem with Hammer of the Gods is that, despite a third act that piles on some supposedly shocking twists, the overall plot lacks both dramatic and emotional impact, largely because the characters introduced towards the end are given too little to do. Similarly, a crucial final battle is lessened by taking place in overly dark surroundings and the film opts to skimp on gore effects just when it should be pulling out all the stops.

Worth seeing?
Hammer of the Gods is never less than watchable, thanks to pacey direction, interesting characters, strong performances and some striking location work, though the anti-climactic final act feels rushed and lacks the necessary dramatic and emotional impact.

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Content updated: 20/10/2017 13:17

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