"The Hebrew Hammer" is defiantly one of a kind - a throwback to blaxploitation only with Jews playing all the heroic leads. The result is an absolutely hysterical movie.
Hebrew Hammer, The (2003)
Directors: Jonathan Kesselman
Producers: Josh Kesselman, Sofia Sondervan and Lisa Fragner
Writers: Jonathan Kesselman
Features: * Commentary * Deleted Scenes * Gag Reel * Cast and Crew Bios * The Hebrew Hammer Short Film * Comedy Central Quickies * Previews
Mordechai Jefferson Carver...Adam Goldberg
Damian Claus...Andy Dick
Esther Bloomenbergansteinthal...Judy Greer
Mohammed Ali Paula Abdul Rahiem...Mario Van Peebles
Chief Bloomenbergansteinthal...Peter Coyote
Tiny Tim...Sean Whalen
Mrs. Carver...Nora Dunn
Sweetback...Melvin Van Peebles
"The Hebrew Hammer" was an unexpected surprise. At first glance, the film just didnít sound particularly interesting or good for that matter. I was wrong, very wrong. "The Hebrew Hammer" is defiantly one of a kind - a throwback to blaxploitation only with Jews playing all the heroic leads. The result is an absolutely hysterical movie.
The plot of "The Hebrew Hammer" begins when Santa Clausís son (Andy Dick) kills his own father because heís becoming too soft on the other holidays such as Kwanza and Chanukah. Mordechai Jefferson Carver or as heís better known, The Hebrew Hammer (Adam Goldberg), is brought in by the Jewish Justice League to investigate and soon he uncovers a plot to destroy the holidays that surround Christmas.
The plot, for the most part, is relatively weak. It sounds horribly juvenile and often itís played out that way. The film would have felt less amateur had it chosen a more mature angle. This is an ĎRí rated film. Why does it seem to want to cater to young people, who canít even watch the feature?
Complaints aside, even despite the weak plot, the film manages to excel using its key sense of wit and clever dialogue. Every scene in the film is peppered with humor. Racial jokes (and there are a lot here) are played off with an extremely effective style thatís never too off-putting or offensive. Rather, the racial humor is just a factor in the already humorous script.
This is writer/director Jonathan Kesselmanís writing and directorial debut and he does a fair job. The film has an obvious low-budget feel, particularly during the scenes involving the Jewish Justice League. Kesselman shot the film on video and it never really feels like a film, but a made-for-TV movie, which hurts the film more than youíd imagine. Video may be the future for independent filmmakers, but we shouldnít shy away from film yet. Video still holds with it, a sense of unprofessionalism thatís nearly impossible to shake.
Kesselman does manage to work his cast to the bone, squeezing out virtually every laugh possible from each performance. Andy Dick, an actor of which I loathe, actually manages to find his niche here, delivering a rather hilarious performance. Adam Goldberg proves heís an upcoming comic genius (Woody Allen, call this guy) and Judy Greerís deadpan facial expressions are perfect here. Sheís another hilarious actress just waiting to take off. Notable cameo appearances (particularly from blaxploitation pioneer Melvin Van Peebles) add flavor to the already vibrant cast.
"The Hebrew Hammer" isnít just for Jews, but for anyone whoís ever felt that theyíve been persecuted by someone else. Itís a hilarious take on race relations thatís not afraid to mock the population itís trying to protect.
This isnít the best transfer Iíve ever seen. Iíve noticed on other DVDís, that sometimes, when video is converted to DVD, itís takes on this jagged appearance around the edges thatís not to pleasing to the eye. I thought this might be my projector so I popped it in my DVD-Rom on my computer and found the same jagged edges appearing here as well.
It would appear that the film just wasnít mastered correctly. Also, the filmís ratio seems screwed up. Itís presented in widescreen 1:85:1, but when I had the image in its native form, it was stretched and skewed, but when I switched it to 16x9, it looked fine. It should have appeared to be in widescreen in native, but for some reason, it didnít. The anamorphic enhancement was already activated. Perhaps the software used to master the film was outdated, or this was a real technical issue. Iím not sure to be honest.
The image was bright and black levels looked great, but this weird defect (?) was puzzling.
While itís not noted on the box, the film includes a fantastic Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround track. This is one vibrant track. Every channel gets a hefty workout here from the center to the surrounds. I was not expecting gold, but I got it. They may have messed up the picture, but they got the sound totally right. A fantastic mix. Reference quality.
English captions are included. There are no subtitles available though.
A funny movie, could only be complimented by funny supplements. This DVD provides:
The ĎScene-specific Audio Commentaryí from actor Adam Goldberg, writer/director Jonathan Kesselman, producer Josh Kesselman and their mother, Sandra Kesselman is well worth a listen. This is one vibrant and hilarious commentary. Itís filled with jokes, trivia and filmmaking woes. Sandraís comments are the absolute best as sheís the obvious inspiration for The Hebrew Hammerís mother (played by Nora Dunn). Even if youíre not a fan of the film, give this track a listen, itís that good.
Next, we can find ĎThe Hebrew Hammer original short filmí (5 minutes). Shot in college, this short is actually rather funny. Several of the filmís more poignant jokes were carried over from this short film. If you liked the movie, youíll love this.
The ĎDeleted Scenesí (10 minutes) are funny, but most would have padded the film out, slowing the picture down far too much.
The ĎGag Reelí (2:30 minutes) is somewhat funny. Iíve found that if a music track is added to the reel, the gags actually work better because they can flow more smoothly, following the pace of the music. This reel, does not feature music and itís sorely missed.
Next up, is an assortment of ĎComedy Central Quickiesí. These short five minute segments are taken from several of Comedy Centralís most popular shows, some of which are already on DVD. They include: "Reno 911", "Crank Yankers", "South Park" and "Chappelleís Show".
Finally, at the beginning of the disc, and accessible through the main menu, we can view several previews for upcoming Comedy Central titles including: "South Park Season Five", "Crank Yankers", "Strangers with Candy: Season Three" and "Ren and Stimpy".
Cast and Crew bios are also available.
As an added bonus, if youíd like to listen to the entire Hebrew Hammer theme, just go to the filmís main menu. It will play all the way through. Enjoy.
A hilarious film, a fantastic surround mix and awesome special features, make this a title worth adding to you collection. An excellent DVD overall, "The Hebrew Hammer" is just in time for Chanukah.
As entertainment: * * *
As a film: * *
Overall: * * *
Rated R for language, some sexual reference and drug use.
* List Price: $19.99
* Available on DVD November 16th.
----R. L. Shaffer