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"The Hebrew Hammer"

Directed by Jonathan Kesselman.
Written by Jonathan Kesselman. 
Starring Adam Goldberg, Mario Van Peebles and Andy Dick.
Release Year:  2003 
Review Date:  2/2/04 


The plot:  A super-Jew named Mordecai (Adam Goldberg) is summoned by the Jewish Justice League to help the KLF—the Kwanzaa Liberation Foundation—save Christmas from the hands of an evil Santa (Andy Dick) bent on holiday eradication.  If Mordecai, aka “The Hebrew Hammer”, can team up with Mohammed Ali Paula Abdul Mustafa (Mario Van Peebles) of the KLF to successfully take down bad Santa, all of us can go back to the PC-friendly holiday spirit that we have grown to know and love.

My friend Mike “Yac” Iacovone said it best after we, along with Cindy “C-Lo” Hunnicutt, left the theater on Sunday afternoon:  “We only get one good, funny, racist film each year—if we get any at all—and ‘The Hebrew Hammer’ delivers the goods.”  Like “Undercover Brother” a couple of years ago, “The Hebrew Hammer” serves up a 70s-style Jewsploitation film with all the fixins:  rampant, funny and sometimes just wrong Jewish stereotyping; a funk-disco soundtrack; lots of sex jokes; plenty of great sight gags, and a fuckin’ shitload of racism.  The film is rated NR, which I think stands for Nonstop Racism, because by the time you meet the KLF members, and then The Hammer goes off to a local pub where skinheads hang out, to a scene where Santa hires Indonesian slaves to work in his toy factory (all in a span of about 12 minutes), you aren’t left with any races left to pillage for laughs.

Naturally, I soaked this up, and there were about eight scenes for me where I lost my mind, it was just so funny.  Goldberg is having fun spouting off anger at every turn, but he makes for a cool lead; Dick’s lines are almost all fueled by hatred, so his profanity-laced tirades at midgets, cripples, blacks and Jews mostly work, even if they get a little tiresome by the end.  The soundtrack is hot, as is any film that references the “Indiana Jones” series and “Superfly” in the same movie.  The film has plenty of cheap jokes, but more high-end comedy scenes like the first one at the Jewish Justice League where a chair for the head of all Jewish professional athletes remains empty got some of the best laughs in my theater.

I wish I had someone Jewish with me when I saw “The Hebrew Hammer”, because I wonder how some of the scenes went down for those that have lived the life; for an outsider, it was quite funny, but the film has caught some flack with conservatives who can’t believe that all of this made it onto the screen.  I think blacks and (some) Asians have an easier time making fun of their stereotypes; I don’t think I have seen a film like this where Jews are sent up for an entire movie’s running time.

Otherwise, the film is good, not great.  Rookie writer/director Jonathan Kesselman seems to let his actors go on auto-pilot during some of the weaker sequences; the film looks poorly shot at times, and has a couple of scenes that transition poorly.  The script periodically feels like it was written with five or six hilarious moments in mind, and other scenes to fill in around those money shots; how else can I explain an ending where the Hammer tries to stop Santa from draining the Jewish Atomic Clock of its precious “Jewade”, which only exists in the clock itself!

There are enough laughs here, though, to warrant a run to the theater.  This film was released last year and has already made a run on Comedy Central, although that seems strange since the film is loaded with profanity.  Anyway, catch it if you is showing in DC at Visions Theater for this week only.

Rating:  $9.50 Show


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09