Director: Farren Blackburn
Screen Writer: Matthew Read
Producer: Rupert Preston Huberta Von Liel
Narrator: Stephan Pehrsson
Starring: Charlie Bewley, Clive Standen, Michael Jibson, Guy Flanagan, Alexandra Dowling, James Cosmo, Elliot Cowan, Glynis Barber, Ivan Kaye
BBFC Certification: 18
Duration: 95 min
Only four words, (i.e. blood, gore, violence, and Vikings), are required to describe this film in a nutshell. Ok, so there is a story line plus great scenery and an evocative look / feel to the film, but these pale in comparison to the aforementioned blood, gore, violence and Vikings, which simply dominate all other aspects of this film.
Hammer of The Gods starts out promisingly enough on a rough English coast line, complete with misty fog over-shadowing the arrival of a fleet of Viking ships from which emerge four key characters of the story, namely Prince Steinar (the hero), and his best buddies: Hagen, Jokul, and Grim. The fearsome foursome promptly kick-off the gore fest with a bloodbath when challenged by villagers fed up with being pillaged and ruled by a crumbling Viking empire. The dying king Bagsecg is losing grip of the unruly island, and wants to assure succession to a leader that will be strong enough to restore the balance of power. The only person with the right qualification is estranged eldest son, Prince Hakan, who has basically gone native / AWOL in the Welsh hills. King Bagsecg decides to send Steinar, (who he considers too soft / sane to rule), to locate and bring back his legendary elder brother, as rightful heir to the throne.
This essentially sets up the rest of the film as a multi-level quest, which culminates with Steinar finding his brother, his long lost mother and even himself over the course of the film. Along the way, of course, Steinar and his crew manage to find opportunities to be ruthless, brutal and ultra-violent, wreaking havoc on various adversaries, and picking up a couple of people, (including Prince Hakan’s former right hand man and a female companion), who guide the band of warriors to the lions den. During the journey the film tries to add depth to the characters, with some flashbacks on how Steinar’s Mother took off, leaving him with a deep sense of abandonment. Also one of his warrior brothers, Grim, meets a particularly violent end during an attack by hostiles.
In terms of style, the Welsh scenery is simply breath-taking, plus the fight scenes are intensely bloody and surprisingly well choreographed, but the overall effect is somewhat spoilt by blatantly rehashed themes / imagery / story arc from classic films such as: 300 (fight scenes), Lord of The Rings (journey / landscape), Gladiator (heroic combat) and Apocalypse Now (quest for a mad renegade). The latter similarity is painfully brought home in the final act where Steinar is captured and discovers to his horror that his mad despot of a brother rules god-like over a cannibal tribe of hill people, alongside his mother / spouse by his side. Oh yes, Prince Hakan is a real… <insert maternal expletive here>, and even more insane and blood thirsty than Marlon Brando’s mad Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now.
The film reaches its bloody conclusion when Steinar defeats and kills Hakan in single combat, and returns a much-changed man; finally worthy of the throne King Bagsecg leaves behind.
In conclusion, I thought this film held a lot of promise and appeal, in spite of the low budget. It was action packed, and even funny in places, but ultimately let down by various intangibles which conspired to make it feel more like a wannabe epic, instead of the uncompromising, adrenalin-fuelled historic action romp / quest it so clearly wishes to be.