Jerry Ferro (Adam Carolla) is a former amateur boxer who hung up the gloves years ago. He’s now a 40-year-old, underemployed construction worker who teaches boxing part-time to middle-management types at a Pasadena gym. Then an old-time boxing coach and friend of Jerry’s asks him if he’d like to be a sparring partner for an up-and-coming pro. The carrot dangling at the end of this stick is that if Jerry agrees to work out with the young pro, the trainer will try to get him in shape for a shot at the Olympics.
Sure, the setup here is a bit hard to believe—Jerry is a bit geriatric for the Olympic scene—but radio/TV personality Carolla, a former Golden Gloves boxer, is in good shape and moves around the ring with real assurance. And initially at least, the star’s average-guy looks and sharp sense of humor make The Hammer a pleasure to watch.
Where the picture really scores is in its everyday depiction of the blood, sweat and tears of the boxing world. This is authentic stuff, and you can practically smell the sweaty clothes and liniment of the gym. Even better, The Hammer is refreshingly multi-cultural. Jerry’s best buddy is a squat Nicaraguan (Oswaldo Castillo) and the gym’s inhabitants run the gamut from Latino to black, to white working-class. The picture is totally comfortable with this diversity, and that’s as it should be.
Unfortunately, The Hammer takes a TKO in the romance department. Jerry supposedly hooks up with a successful lawyer in his boxing class (Heather Juergensen, who co-wrote and starred in Hammer director Charles Herman-Wurmfeld’s Kissing Jessica Stein), but the relationship between this lug and the sophisticate doesn’t really ring true. And as the film goes on, Carolla’s big-toothed grin and snappy comments tend to wear a bit.
Still, this is an enjoyable little film which really benefits from the love its creators have for the boxing game. And even though the ending seems a tad implausible, The Hammer is the kind of indie picture you’ll walk away from with many more good vibes than bad.