A Bag of Hammers is a comedy, which follows two men in their 20s who make a living stealing cars and suddenly find that responsibility falls into their laps when a neighboring child loses his mother. The film, as some have noted, fits a bit to the mold of About A Boy. The main difference being that here its a pair of men and they are somewhat less reticent to assume responsibility.
The film is quite funny but it does mix in its themes rather well because of that fact. There are comments on child rearing and social services being made with out being too on the head about either of them. Also, considering that this pair of leads can be seen as beyond imperfect role models and quintessential slackers it does underline the points that are being made. These same points are further underlined by the fact that their background is not dissimilar to that of the young boy’s.
One thing the film is to be commended for is its handling of quirkiness. The temptation to be quirky in pursuit of originality is a strong one, especially in an indie film, especially in a comedy. However, quirkiness for quirkiness’ sake can be a disturbance to the progression of a film. What this film does well is makes the idiosyncrasies seeming necessities, and builds them through the characters and not as plot devices.
The pace of a film is a significant boon to it. The film doesn’t run long but I think that we all know that running time is not necessarily a fair gauge of pace. The pace is positively breezy throughout and the film really flows well for the most part.
The lone exception to the pacing brilliance is the fact that the third act is a bit abrupt. I can’t say it’s the handling that’s poor, it’s just that there’s a certain disproportion to the structure and a bit of acceleration through the end that could require a little more time than it gets.
However, what does need to be said is that the film is propelled to said end by a brilliantly framed and beautifully rendered wish-fulfillment montage, the likes of which you rarely see in this day and age. It truly is the coup de grace of the entire film and it’s rather breathtaking and should serve as an instructional as to how to construct a montage.
One thing that’s interesting to note is that the film, despite some it’s comedy being rather broad and it’s dramatic question being very much up front, it does handle thing with a certain bit of restraint. Namely after the film myself and the two friends I viewed it with were debating the sexuality of the two friends. It’s something that’s never addressed directly but certainly gives food for thought.
The performances in this film are wonderful. Jason Ritter, the spitting image of his father John, plays his character sincerely with great comedic timing and dramatic aplomb. He even carries the film through it’s most difficult patch where his character is resistant to taking care of the boy. Jake Sandvig is comedically deadpan and very sensitive as the character who reaches out to the child. The child, of course, plays a crucial role and Chandler Canterbury who is a very talented, as of yet underrated young talent, is very good in this role. He retains innocence while emoting the browbeaten posture of a child in an inadequate home situation and also shows great restraint emotionally. The scenes between him and his mother feature some of the best writing in the film.
A Bag of Hammers is by no means perfect but it does deserve to be seen and sought out if you have not heard of it yet. It’s both funny and moving and gets the manic depressive seal of approval: you’ll laugh, you’ll cry. Be on the lookout for it.