Director Charles Herman-Wurmfeld seems to be conspicuously absent fom all the promotional materials for “The Hammer,” including the DVD cover. Adam Carolla, star of LA’s morning drivetime show on 97.1 FM and host of “The Man Show” and MTV’s “Loveline”, is the one who is front and center, and if you listen to Adam talk about the film on his show, it sounds like a real labor of love on his part, and something that is pretty much all “his.”
I guess I feel bad for Herman-Wurmfeld, who also directed “Kissing Jessica Stein” and some very funny “Stella” episodes. I’m not sure if “The Facts Of Life Reunion” is the low point of his resume or the best thing ever, but whatever the case, he deserves some credit for making “The Hammer” work. This is one of those “Rocky”-esque underdog stories that we’ve seen fifty million times at this point. This variation is about a forty year old construction worker who gets a shot at the Olympic trials for the U.S. boxing team, the exact dream he gave up chasing when he was younger.
The film works for many of the same reasons the first “Rocky” worked, although definitely not to the same degree. There’s a genuine, grimy, low-rent feel to things, so Jerry Ferro (Carolla) and his desperation ring true. “Rocky” worked because he really did seem like a loser for the first half of that film, and Jerry Ferro’s the same way. Carolla has an easy charisma that carries the film. He’s unflappable. The love story is perfunctory, and there’s no real doubt how things are going to wrap up, but it works because of Carolla’s charm. He obviously believed in the film, paying money out of his own pocket to four-wall it for theatrical release, but in the end, a film like this has its best shot at connecting with people on home video, and I suspect it will have a fairly long life as people take a chance on it and word of mouth spreads.