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A Bag of Hammers (2012)



Average Rating: 4.2/10
Critic Reviews: 9
Fresh: 4 | Rotten: 5

No consensus yet.



liked it
Average Rating: 3.6/5
User Ratings: 442

My Rating

Movie Info

A Bag of Hammers revolves around the friendship of two charming grifters, Ben and Alan, played by Jason Ritter and Jake Sandvig. Ben and Alan have built a successful though larcenous business, posing as car valets, only to steal the vehicles instead of parking them. Because of their less-than-ideal childhoods and a "job" that allows them to remain likeable boyish rogues well into their 20's, their penchant for crime is almost forgivable. However, everything changes when they meet a


Drama, Comedy

Brian Crano, Jake Sandvig

Jun 19, 2012

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May 10, 2012:
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All Critics (19) | Top Critics (9) | Fresh (10) | Rotten (8)

It's too little, too late for Crano's Wes Anderson-inflected innocence-disrupted project...

May 17, 2012 Full Review Source: Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Brian Crano's very slight debut of a comedy.

May 11, 2012 Full Review Source: New York Post
New York Post
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Mr. Canterbury's character is a Hollywood child archetype: wan and withdrawn, all monosyllables and needy stares.

May 10, 2012 Full Review Source: New York Times
New York Times
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Woven amid the glib one-liners and contrived scenarios is an unexpected, and undeniably touching, sense of heart.

May 10, 2012 Full Review Source: New York Daily News
New York Daily News
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It's a struggle all the way for A Bag Of Hammers, though its irony-crusted heart is in the right place.

May 10, 2012 Full Review Source: AV Club
AV Club
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The real scam was the filmmakers tricking Rebecca Hall (and a cameoing Amanda Seyfried) into participating in this blunt instrument of an indie.

May 9, 2012 Full Review Source: Time Out New York
Time Out New York
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Like so many indie flicks, logic takes a back seat while quirkiness takes a Mr. Toad wild ride through the city.

June 23, 2012 Full Review Source: Movie Metropolis
Movie Metropolis

It's not difficult to project that Crano's charming anti-heros, in later life, will be swindling vulnerable little old ladies out of their homes and nest eggs.

May 18, 2012 Full Review Source: Cinema Signals
Cinema Signals

Well shot and well acted.

May 11, 2012 Full Review Source: Paste Magazine
Paste Magazine

It's hard to say whether A Bag of Hammers is deliberately stylized or simply so lo-fi it inadvertently comes across that way, but the simplicity of its elements works.

May 10, 2012 Full Review Source: Movieline

May start out sounding like a goofy buddy comedy, but stick with it - and it will surprise you. In a good way.

May 10, 2012 Full Review Source: Hollywood & Fine
Hollywood & Fine

Suffers from both an odd, ineffective structure and a low-key tone that jars uncomfortably with the subject matter and makes the film's stakes seem unnecessary low.

May 6, 2012 Full Review Source: Slant Magazine
Slant Magazine

Well-meaning but innocuous.

April 25, 2012 Full Review Source: Compuserve

Happy, uncynical, and heartfelt, so gosh-darned likable that any flaws in its methods are easily overlooked.

June 23, 2011 Full Review Source:

Brian Crano's A Bag of Hammers turns out to be that rare tale that surprises in its maturity while never losing the reality of leopards trying to change their spots.

May 11, 2011 Full Review Source:

Audience Reviews for A Bag of Hammers

While starting out as one of those "quirky" comedies, the film really isn't a comedy at all, though it does attempt to retain the quirkiness.

Of course it didn't help that several later scenes that I believe were supposed to be funny were truly reaching; to the point of almost being offensive (as when one of the two grifters has to go at it alone and is reduced to being tempted to rob little old ladies of their purses).

I feel that the back story - that of abused childhood (hence the title) had enough heft to be the sole theme of this film and that the comic elements could have been left out entirely (or at least the more overt ones). The script, when it focuses on the back story, is adequate; as is the acting of Jason Ritter and Jake Sandvig as the two grifters - they are loose enough in that slacker kind of way, and able to carry the wood when the film reveals the pained underside. Precocious kiddy number 9000 is aptly performed by Chandler Canterbury (there's a stage name if I've ever seen one), who manages to make me feel sorry for him as all he wants is someone to care about him (it's obvious that his mother does not). That at least one of the grifters does care is the major turning point of the plot and what gives this film a marginal passing grade - that and the ability to remain in costume; keeping the laissez faire slacker mentality and air of light joviality in spite of the dark underpinnings.

I was drawn to this film because the daughter of a friend worked on the costumes (which are lowbrow LA kitch and so normal you don't notice that they are costumes at all). Normally, just by the title alone, I would have steered clear, and really the title is unfortunate as this could easily be dismissed as a screwball comedy - it's not, and while certainly not a great film, I was pleasantly surprised by the dramatic element. At least the film knew that it was straddling a precarious fence, as during the closing credits it includes a scene where one of the grifters is seen in a hardware store looking at hammers. In the next scene as the 3 main characters are throwing hammers at bottles, one turns to the other and says "you know that this is a pretty obvious metaphor, right?" To which the other replies, "Yeah, but it makes a nice visual". That just about sums up the tone of the film.
January 21, 2013
paul sandberg

Super Reviewer

"A Bag of Hammers was a nice surprise. I'm not sure what I expected, but it wasn't what I got. The movie is emotionally dark. There is some humor in there as well, but the story itself is emotional, sad, and depressing. My heart ached for the characters. You don't get much information on Ben and Alan's childhood, but the pieces you do get tells a story of broken homes with abusive neglecting parents. So when Kelsey enters their lives, with his situation being similar, it's hard not see themselves in the young boy.
In the scene where Lynette is in the backyard hanging her clothes on the line and she calls her son stupid and the spawn of satan, I wanted to go through the screen and beat the crap out of her. But in the end, I kinda felt sorry for her. I learned a long time ago that there are parents who are just not meant to be parents. They just don't know how to be. I think Lynette falls in this category. Unfortunately, poor Kelsey ends up with two parents who would rather not be parents and want nothing but to be rid of him.
The story really grabbed at my heart strings and I thought Chandler Canterbury did an amazing job in his role.
Jason Ritter is just as talented as his late father. I really enjoy his acting. I really liked Jake Sandvig in this as well. I don't know if I've seen him in anything else, I'd like to think I would remember. I liked him a lot in this.
Amanda Seyfried plays a small role. But even in that small part she dominates the screen. I'm liking her the more I see her in films.
If you like indie flicks then this should be something you would enjoy.
Also just anohter little tidbit; The way these two, Ben and Alan, make their living isn't new, but the way they go about it is so, so, so mest up. You will have to see the movie to understand what I mean.
Great movie, I would definitely see it again."
December 29, 2012

Super Reviewer

In "A Bag of Hammers," Ben(Jason Ritter) and Alan(Jake Sandvig, who also co-wrote with director Brian Crano) are a couple of con men who specialize in stealing cars from cemeteries. They figure that has to be better than the gig Melanie(Rebecca Hall), Alan's sister, has as a waitress in a waffle house. There is also Ben and Alan's sideline interest in real estate where they rent a house to Lynette(Carrie Preston) who can barely make ends meet or take care of her son Kelsey(Chandler Canterbury).

With a very good cast(Gabriel Macht is around here somewhere) and a refreshingly positive take on irresponsibility, "A Bag of Hammers" still cannot overcome its awkward blend of quirky and realism. First, if you are going to have quirky thieves, you need to have them steal quirky things. By comparison, no matter their modus operandi or how much they do not want to admit it to themselves, Ben and Alan are in the big leagues by stealing cars. On the other side, as the only places she apparently looks for work is from temp agencies, Lynette is badly underwritten, which cannot be improved upon no matter how much life Carrie Preston may try to futilely breathe into her. And without much in the way of a plausible story, that's pretty much it, except for one nice long shot of bad news being delivered.
June 25, 2013
Walter M.

Super Reviewer

Hitting all the appropriate marks and creating a vehicle for unknowns like Jake Sandvig and Jason Ritter, "A Bag of Hammers" may veer off into pure mimicry of Wes Anderson, but if you're going to imitate, you might as well imitate the best. There is deep emotion in this Indie that reaches the surface a hand full of times and every time it does, its like seeing a gorgeous dolphin coming up for air. Yes, Crano's debut is sometimes sloppy and sometimes predictable, but for the most part, it's completely enjoyable, helped strongly by cameos from the uber talented Amanda Seyfried and Rebecca Hall.
January 30, 2013

Super Reviewer

    1. Ben: Tea is civilizing. People drink it in centers of learning.
    – Submitted by Frances H (20 months ago)
    1. Ben: We all get a bag go hammers, whether it's being poor or catching cancer, divorce or losing your brother, or losing your mother. You know what I mean, Kelsey. It's what you do with these hammers.
    – Submitted by Frances H (20 months ago)
    1. Alan: Stay in school. Don't drink and drive. Just say no.
    – Submitted by Frances H (20 months ago)
    1. Alan: You speak in Michael Bolton lyrics.
    2. Amanda: Fuck you, Alan and you have a little dick.
    – Submitted by Frances H (20 months ago)
    1. Ben: We stole your ex-girlfriend's car!
    – Submitted by Frances H (20 months ago)
View all quotes (5)

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