|Image courtesy of VHS-Ninja|
Directed by: Enzo G. Castellari
I have been trying to track this film down ever since I first discovered Hands of Steel, also starring Daniel Greene. Though mainly a television actor up until this point, he did a few Italian Trash films, with both the insanely enjoyable Hands of Steel and Hammerhead being two of them. After Hands of Steel easily became one of my all-time favorite films, I felt it my duty to get my hands on this lost gem no matter the cost, because hey, you just never know. It could very well be another great under the radar masterpiece.
Hammer's (Daniel Greene) friend is murdered. Being undercover cops, he assumes it's a hit made by someone they put away. When he sets out to find the man who killed him, his journey takes him to the Caribbean, where he uncovers a much more sinister and intricate plot of corruption and murder.
Hammerhead is what I would imagine an action film would look like if Rob Zombie directed it, just not anywhere as gory or violent. Written & Directed by by Enzo G. Castellari, who gave us such classics like the original Inglorious Bastards, as well as a plethora of early 80's Italian Trash efforts like 1990: The Bronx Warriors, Warriors of the Wasteland, and Escape from the Bronx, Hammerhead was a nice return to form for Castellari who hadn't really done anything worth getting excited about during most of the mid to late 80's. Though technically Hammerhead was made in '86, it wasn't released until 1990, which is why it looks very 70's/80's to me. But even then, it's a bit of a stretch from late 70's to '86, so I wonder if the overall look was on purpose? Either way, it rules.
Hammerhead is a tough cops and robbers tale made only the way Italians can. It's brutal, violent, and with a frenetic freestyle energy that pushes it into overdrive. In fact, I'd consider this a super-charged version of a late 70's cop thriller, much like the excellent Blazing Magnum, except with a lot more action set pieces than that particular film. Castellari possesses a specific raw style that is hard to duplicate. Sure a lot of it looks and feels "freestyle" or "on the whim", but if you pay attention, there is a pure raw style at play, and it's perfect additive to this specific genre.
The more digging I do, the more I come to learn that Castellari is prolific in the action genre, not just the Italian Trash sub-genre, and I'm getting more and more excited to check some of these out. I've been hearing about Light Blast with Erik Estrada in the cult circuit for years, but Tuareg: The Desert Warrior with Mark Harmon sounds equally intriguing. Sadly though, it seems with the exception of a western from '94, all his work after Hammerhead has been all television, which is a shame because the guy is talented. But that seems to be the norm for great action guys though. Same thing happened to Walter Hill and Craig R. Baxely. They sort of disappear from the genre altogether.
I'm not going to say that Hammerhead is without it's problems, because it's not. But as with any low-budget Italian Trash film, it comes with the territory. Despite it's minor issues, this thing is a hard-hitting badass tough as nails detective thriller with a vibe and tone that is pure late 70's nostalgia, reminding us why this particular sub-genre of film was so iconic in the first place. Writer/Director Enzo G. Castellari has effectively crafted a tried and true cop thriller, while simultaneously working as a homage, or throwback if you will. If you're a fan of these Italian hard-hitting cop thrillers, Hammerhead will leave a lasting impression.