Hammer (1972)

Genres - Crime, Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Blaxploitation, Melodrama  |   Release Date - Sep 20, 1972 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 91 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Fred Williamson first made his name as a football player, playing defense with the Oakland Raiders and the Kansas City Chiefs, so it made sense to cast him in a sports-themed picture. In Hammer (the title was inspired by Williamson's gridiron nickname), he portrays a boxer rather than a football star, but given Williamson's reputation for aggressive play on the field, that wasn't too much of a stretch, and Williamson is convincing and charismatic enough that he carries most of the picture on his shoulders, and does so with good-natured swagger and charm to spare. Williamson doesn't have a lot of range as an actor, but he was a solid action star who could kick butt and do it with a smile when needed, and along with looking convincing in the ring he works hard to make the best of Charles Johnson's truly awful script. The plot is a swampy morass of clich├ęs, the characters are annoyingly predictable and the dialogue is often laughable; the fact that Williamson was able to keep a straight face saying "I cut my teeth playing big-time city games like Smack the Fag, Hump the Whore and Dodge the Needle, so ain't no jive-time jelly-belly cat gonna rip me off" makes his work here all the more impressive. (And the Hammer rocks a truly mighty set of sideburns in this picture.) Vonetta McGee also comes off well as Williamson's love interest, and the fight scenes deliver an impressive bone-crunching impact, while director Bruce Clark gives this material a bit more visual flash that you might expect. Hammer is run-of-the-mill blaxploitation fare in most respects, but Williamson and McGee try to make something of a mediocre script, and they succeed just enough to make this a reasonably entertaining time-killer, if not much more.