It’s hard to forget that scene from Oldboy (Oldeuboi, 2003). One hallway. A single take. Scores of baddies. And one man. With a hammer.
Forget handguns, knifes, or samurai swords: in Korean cinema it seems to be de rigueur to use hammers as weapons.
Take The Chaser (Chugyeogja, 2008). What does the demented killer use on his victims? A hammer. Preferably in combination with a chisel, but he’ll do without if necessary. (A hammer also nearly kills him at the end, which would have been some kind of poetic justice.)
In the awful torture flick The Butcher (2007) the makers of snuff movies clobber their captives repeatedly with a hammer. Nasty piece of work, this. Best avoided really.
In I Saw the Devil (Ang-ma-reul bo-at-da, 2010) Min-sik Choi could, after Oldboy, once again show his DIY skills in his first on-screen murder.
Intriguing and dreamlike Alone (2015) again showed that a hammer is a perfect weapon for breaking and entering. Not just houses, but skulls as well.
How often do we see hammer-weapons in non-Korean films? I could think of just a few examples when I started this blog post a couple of years ago, but the list is growing with fresh additions. There’s Oldboy (2013) of course. The American remake I mean.
Then there is little known I Come With the Rain (2009). An international production, in which Byung-hun Lee wields a hammer as an execution device. Take a guess which country this actor is from…
British cinema is on the rise when it comes to sick hammer scenes. Example 1: Kill List (2011).
Example 2: Legend (2015). Crazy, sick & disturbing is what all these examples have in common, so mental case Ronnie Kray fits right in. The Gay Kray brings not one, but two hammers (and his teeth) to a pub fight.
Two hammers you say? We’ve seen that before, in The Raid 2 (2014). I’d be surprised if Hammer Girl(!) isn’t some sort of an homage by director Gareth Evans to South Korea’s favourite cinema weapon.
The latest additions to the Hammer Files* come from the normally gun-totin’ States. One deals with a virus outbreak in a sealed-off office tower. The virus doesn’t kill people, it merely takes away all people’s inhibitions. Throw ruthless corporate characters, some grudges and a few weapons in the mix and what you get is brutal & fun Mayhem (2017). In it Samara Weaving (an actress I’ll be keeping an eye on) at one point wields a nail gun, but seems to think a hammer is much cooler.
Far less humorous is Lynne Ramsay’s brutal You Were Never Really Here (2017).
*This really is starting to look like a Internet Movie Hammer Database isn’t it? Also: this really starts to look like a 21st century phenomenon. I’ve no idea why. Gun fatigue perhaps?
(Thanks Paul C.)