Ben (Jason Ritter) and Alan (Jake Sandvig) are young, criminal, and full of pop references in A Bag of Hammers, first-time writer/director Brian Crano’s precarious blend of glib indie tropes and bleak urban melodrama. Fresno flunkies Ben and Alan steal cars for a living, often posing as valets in cemeteries and cracking each other up all the way to the chop shop. The roommates are also landlords: Their latest tenants—Lynette (Carrie Preston) and her 12-year-old son, Kelsey (Chandler Canterbury)—claim to be Hurricane Katrina refugees. The flip side of the boys’ five-finger-discount way of life is a hands-off attitude toward actual people, but jobless and stressed-out Lynette’s parental negligence becomes hard to ignore. Blurry references to the boys’ troubled childhoods are corroborated by Alan’s sister (Rebecca Hall), who is otherwise there to point out the pair’s idiocy and make a couple of well-placed phone calls to the authorities. Co-written by Sandvig, Hammers seems unaware of the dubiousness of its flippant-young-felons-gone-good conceit; despite taking a sharp turn into maudlin, quasi–About a Boy territory, it almost makes you forget as well. A few striking performances—Ritter, Preston, and Canterbury are especially great—smooth out what might have been a much bumpier ride.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on May 9, 2012