SXSW 2011 Review: A BAG OF HAMMERS
Alan and Ben are a pair of slackers who pay rent by working valet at funerals. No, wait, wait that's very incorrect. Alan and Ben are a pair of slackers who pay rent by boosting cars while posing as valet employees at funerals. Sounds morbid and cruel, but A BAG OF HAMMERS is actually a bag of charm.
In any case, Alan (Jake Sandvig) and Ben (Jason Ritter) are too lazy to work normal jobs, so they steal cars and sell them to a local car shop for scrap. They live in a little duplex and rent one out to a struggling mother and child, Kelsey (wonderfully played by Chandler Canterbury). When that mother winds up abandoning the child, Alan and Ben take him in to build a family of their own. Think Two and a Half Men, but without the tiger blood.
A BAG OF HAMMERS is co-writer/director Brian Crano's first feature film, and I'm crossing my fingers (and torso) that it's not his last. Crano manages to give an unhealthy story about two misfit adults who commit grand theft auto a lot of heart. Crano understands how to mix clever adult humor with serious life themes. A BAG OF HAMMERS does take an unexpected turn, but Crano does not drop the ball, not once; as the title suggests, sometimes life throws us a bag of hammers and we just have to deal with it.
Full disclosure: I've never really paid much attention to Jason Ritter's career and now I'm thinking this was a bit foolish of me; Crano's feature-length directorial debut is a hammering heads up that it's now time for everyone to be more aware of this man. Ritter channels his brilliant father's comedy and gives us a hilarious performance as Ben, that slacker you just hate to love. He's charming, funny, and means well - even if he doesn't know he's meaning well. I must also note that Ritter bounces wonderfully off fellow actors Sanvig, Canterbury, and Rebecca Hall.
A BAG OF HAMMERS is a heavy reminder that you don't need to be fast and furious to tell a smart and entertaining story about stealing cars.