Review: A Bag of Hammers


[A Bag of Hammers is available on iTunes.]

Recently, I wrote a little about emotional ploys in indie films. Especially in comedies, an emotional connection is important so the characters aren’t either portrayed as one-dimensional jerks or losers. However, when such a connection comes in the form of an unbelievable, ridiculous plot device, it takes too much away from the rest of the film.

A Bag of Hammers is one of those films.

A Bag of Hammers
Director: Brian Crano
Rating: NR
Release Date: June 20th on iTunes

Two grifters, Ben (Jason Ritter) and Alan (Jake Sandvig), get by in life by scamming people, whether they’re posing as complimentary valet drivers at funerals to simply pulling scams on unsuspecting, gullible people. When a young-ish Mom moves next door with her young son, Kelsey (Chandler Canterbury), they think nothing of them. However, they begin to build a bit of a rapport with the young Kelsey, especially after discovering that he’s being bullied at school. But when tragedy strikes his Mother, the two decide to step up and support him.

The film starts off on a hilarious note by showing Ben and Alan running their cemetery scam. I thought to myself, “Awesome, these guy sare asshole hustlers. I’m into this.” However, things go south when the emphasis is drawn to Kelsey. After the truth behind his family life is revealed to be less than subpar, it’s almost made obvious that the film will shift from watching Ben and Alan being assholes to becoming psuedo-father figures for the younger Kelsey.

The problem with this, though, is the stretch of the imagination that they’re suddenly grown up and mature enough to be fit to support Kelsey. It’s unrealistic. Sure, I might be reading too into it, but two 20-something guys with no steady income outside of their scam schemes wouldn’t know anything about raising a 12-year-old kid, especially one who has faced neglect his entire life. I understand that the twist was to serve as a growing character arc for the two leads in an attempt to signify growth and maturation, but it’s such a large leap in faith.

Outside of the ridiculous plot twist, the acting is well-done. Ritter and Sandvig fit into their roles well. Rebecca Hall (The Town) plays a supporting role as Alan’s sister, Mel. Her character served the plot appropriately, but I still felt that she was somewhat underused. Canterbury shows some emotional depth, given the tragedy that strikes his character. The best job, however, was Carrie Preston (True Blood) as Kelsey’s Mother. Out of all the characters, her Lynette was shown to constantly hit progressively lower points as the film goes on. I guess I’m a sucker for characters hitting rock bottom.

Despite the good performances by its cast, A Bag of Hammers ultimately is brought down by its unbelievable third act. It’s all a bit sentimental and good-hearted, but after the way it began, I just wish it went down a different path.