A Bag Of Hammers (BLU-RAY)

A Bag Of Hammers

On Blu-Ray: 
Tuesday, June 19, 2012
Running Time: 
85 minutes

In the behind the scenes feature Actor/Co-Writer Jake Sandvig says that the title of the film was inspired from a quote by Michael J. Fox in an interview where the actor was speaking about living with Parkinson's Disease.

Ben (Jason Ritter; The Education Of Charlie Banks) and Alan (Jake Sandvig; Easy A) are a couple of grifters who get by posing as Valet’s at funerals. They steal cars and sell them to their buddy Marty (Todd Louiso; High Fidelity) so that they can live a relatively anonymous life. They own a house in which they live in the guest house and rent the main house out to supplement their funds and offer up a cut to Alan’s sister Mel (Rebecca Hall; Everything Must Go), when she needs it. Life is pretty much worry free until they rent the main house out to Lynette (Carrie Preston; True Blood) and her young son Kelsey (Chandler Canterbury; Knowing), victims of Hurricane Katrina, sort of.

As the story progresses we learn that Kelsey is a bit of a neglected child. Mel’s decision to call the authorities sets in motion a string of events that leads to Kelsey being abandoned and Ben and Alan being forced to decide weather or not they should take him in and care for him. This decision opens up the back story on Alan, Ben, and Mel where we see they also had issues when they were young. If they take in Kelsey will they be opening the door to demons they had thought they had overcome or will the opportunity be just what they need to prove to themselves that they truly have overcome their own damaged lives? 

A Bag Of Hammers is a film that almost has it all. The casting department for the film, Brad Gilmore (The People I’ve Slept With), does a fantastic job of putting together all of the right people. Jake Sandvig and Jason Ritter have an instant chemistry that makes it seem like they’ve really been best friends since they were kids. Rebecca Hall, whose starred in two short films for Brian Crano (Rubberheart and Official Selection) is given a limited but effective role, and Chandler Canterbury pulls off the kid role where other child actors would have hammed it up and made it disgustingly over sweet. The story has such wonderful heart, bordering a little with HAPPYTHANKYOUMOREPLEASE, and the direction and aesthetic of the film is very Wes Anderson like with a sometimes muted world filled with quirky characters. Last but not least the film’s soundtrack is done by folk singer Johnny Flynn, one of my favorites. There’s just too much to love, and then the film kind of gets extremely lazy for its finale.

The one and only bonus feature for the disc aside from the trailer (pass your own judgment there) is a Behind The Scenes look at the film, I highly suggest for getting an even broader view of the film (there is a warning that the bonus feature contains spoilers). Director and Co-Writer Brian Crano talks about his motivation for the film, that he wanted to showcase alternative families, aka Ben and Alan, two men who have no blood relation to Kelsey, but also Ben, Alan, and Mel. It didn’t dawn on me until I perused the bonus features that this was what the director was aiming for. With all of the mention of child neglect and abuse I assumed the point the film was trying to make, well more of a statement, was that no matter how damaged we become we can still be functional useful human beings to society and that we still have the capacity to take care of ourselves and others. That’s what I took from the film anyway, as well as a slap at the Child Care system and all its failures. Not too bad a message, but then the film quits on you at the end as if to say, “Okay we’ve laid the groundwork for the substance part of the film, now here’s what would happen if we had it our way (in 2 minutes)". It was closure for the film but a bit disappointing of an ending. Talk about neglect.

Despite everything I had a really enjoyable experience with the film. Ritter and Sandvig really create two characters you want to just hang out with. I think their characters and the story are so accessible because anyone can relate to the characters plights of kind of having to do it on their own. There comes a point in everyone’s lives where they believe they can do it on their own and make an attempt, regardless of weather or not they succeed in that moment there is a connection with this story. Like Dan In Real Life the story is kind of similar to something else, again this one being in close parallel with Josh Radnor’s Happythankyoumoreplease, but both have awesome soundtracks that keep you coming back even if just for that (Dan In Real Life’s soundtrack was done by Swedish folk rocker Sondre Lerche). Johnny Flynn fits in really well with the films indie feel and I could watch the film just to hear the music if I wanted. In the end your sure to have a great time watching the film but how you see the finale will determine weather or not you will be back for a repeat viewing. In any case it is well worth the effort to track yourself down a copy to see the film.

AS I stated above, the film has a very muted Wes Anderson type feel. Colors look seasonal, as in fall. It’s very rustic but organic. Detail is sharp and depth worthy revealing the smallest little nooks and crannies of most scenes and line definition gives the picture an even more acute sense of detail. It’s artistically done so you’ll have to decide for yourself weather or not a tweak in the color scheme is art or disruption, but for a HD picture I’d say the film is pretty spot on, audio as well.

The film is pretty dialogue driven but there is ample room for both the well written dialogue, and well executed dialogue by Ritter and Sandvig at that, as well as the films great score/soundtrack. Don’t expect there to be the kind of massive immersion you’d find in a Sci-Fi release but everything is in it’s place to make this a great at home theater experience.

Behind The Scenes Featurette and Trailer.

AJ Garcia
Review by AJ Garcia
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