Hammer of the Gods – Review ★★

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Twilight star Charlie Bewley takes the lead in this barbaric bloodbath of a fantasy/thriller which gained its UK premier at Frightfest 2013, though is not strictly speaking a horror film. No doubt spawned from the success of other similar axe-wielding, David and Goliath style medieval action movies (think 300, Valhalla Rising), Hammer of the Gods starts off quite slow but spirals into a bizarre macho Viking gangster piece, utilising the most taboo subject matter for no apparent reason other than to repulse its viewer.

From the get go it did not start well, with freeze frame titles introducing us to the rag-tag bunch of warriors arriving into England as part of an entourage called to reinforce the Viking position against the Saxons. This approach is definitely better left to gritty crime capers such as Snatch, Trainspotting and Mean Streets, as here it felt overdone and unnecessary, especially as it becomes apparent many of the characters introduced won’t be around that long anyway.

hammerBewley is young warrior Steinar, the son of dying King Bagsecg (James Cosmo), who upon his arrival is tasked with the quest of finding his estranged brother Hakan (Elliot Cowan) so that he can be convinced to lay claim to the throne that once banished him. Accompanied by his group of sweary un-merry men, he runs into all kinds of unsavory characters whilst venturing across hostile territory on a mission that culminates in cruelty, incest and cannibalism and sees Steinar’s transition from a somewhat caring, loyal soldier to the man his father always wanted him to be – a vicious (for want of a better word) scoundrel.

The fact that the ultimate war is against Anglo-Saxons is apparently a moot point here as the gang spend far more time fighting each other than they do the sworn enemy, however for fans of an abundance of hand to hand to axe to sword violence Hammer of the Gods will certainly give you your fill.

Like its counterparts before it Hammer of the Gods tends to favour visuals over characterisation however it’s not all bad, the British countryside makes for a stunning backdrop to the madness, the costumes are nicely done and the actors are undoubtedly a talented bunch, for the most part, however the dialogue is just too cheesy and the character arcs too flimsy for them to engage an audience or show any range of emotion.

At the beginning of the preview we were warned that if you were an expert on Viking mythology then this probably wouldn’t be the film for you, but as time went on it became apparent that if you were an expert in anything this probably wouldn’t stimulate too much.

Despite director Farren Blackburn creating a good looking piece from his meager budget, Hammer of the Gods is an ultimately disengaging and strictly for the blood thirsty action romp, with a few redeeming features that get lost in the absurdity of it all.

Katie Hall is the assistant editor at Critics Associated.