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Sledge Hammer: series 2

August 2005 SITE MAP   SEARCH

Sledge Hammer: series one + two
cast: David Rache, Anne-Marie Martin, and Harrison Page

creator: Alan Spencer

479 / 570 minutes (15 / 12) 1986 / 1988-9 Anchor Bay DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by Alasdair Stuart
In the 1980s all you needed to be a good cop was a big gun, a casual disregard for procedure and a past filled with angst. From Martin Riggs to Harry Callahan or any one of half a dozen Schwarzenegger movies, it was the decade of the violent maverick cop. And none were more violent, or maverick, than Sledge Hammer.

Whilst it only ran for two seasons, Sledge Hammer has maintained a cult following even now and with both series released on DVD it's easy to see why. One part Police Squad! style pastiche and one part 1980s' satire, Sledge Hammer was a show that was never afraid of a cheap laugh or an unusually subtle one.

Front and centre was David Rasche as Inspector Sledge Hammer himself. Rasche looks for all the world like Peter Gabriel's confused younger brother, his view of the world consisting only of him, his gun and how many 'perps' he can deal with that day. Hammer's a great character and Rasche plays him wonderfully, imbuing a man who to be fair is a dangerous psychotic with a child-like innocence and a nice line in surreal humour, largely shown through his conversations with his, naturally vast, handgun. During Sledge In Toyland, an episode where toys are being used to kill, Hammer picks up a toy gun, turns to his own and says: "Hey, want a pet?"

With the cheerfully monstrous Hammer at its centre, the series is strong ground and the supporting characters don't let it down. Ann-Marie Martin is excellent as Hammer's long-suffering partner Dori Doreau. Doreau is a good cop in hell, a gifted detective, a great shot and orders of magnitude smarter than her partner. Which of course means she gets just as much of the flak as he does and often finds herself frantically running damage control on his behalf. Martin, who co-wrote Twister, is a fantastic comic actress combining deadpan slow burns with some great physical clowning skills. In season two's Play It Again, Sledge, she and Sledge are kicked off the force and set up shop as a private detective agency. This leads to Doreau stumbling around the office in an incredibly tight skirt, hair plastered down her face in a noir-ish curtain because she can't afford her regular appointments at the hairdresser anymore. In season two's Icebreaker she's also given the chance to play it straight in a surprisingly dark episode guest starring Adam Ant as an anti-terrorist operative. There's real pathos to the episode and Martin carries it off perfectly.

The final member of the regular cast, Harrison Page has the toughest job. As Captain Trunk, Page is required at times to do little more than scream at Hammer. However, the character rapidly evolves over the series into something far more interesting and funnier than that initial joke. In Gun Crazy, the documentary included with season two, Page reveals that he and Rasche both had improv training and a lot of their interaction stems from that. After a while this becomes clear in the episodes as less becomes more and all Captain Trunk needs to do is threaten to blow up in order for Hammer to react. Plus, like Martin, he gets an episode to truly shine with They Call Me Mister Trunk!, which sees the Captain's high blood pressure proving instrumental in saving the precinct from a deadly viral outbreak. It's a brave move for a comedy like this to give its supporting characters this much screen time, but Martin and Page more than carry it off. Similarly, Rasche is superb in Here's To You, Mrs Hammer, in which Sledge's ex-wife marries a friend of his. There's a moment where Sledge takes his gun out, looks at it and hurls it across the room, which is absolutely electric. It takes genuine courage for a comedy series to throw moments like this in but both the writing and the acting are up to it.

Ultimately, Sledge Hammer is a smart, very funny piece of 1980s' satire that has influenced a lot of what's followed it. It's also gleefully, wonderfully silly - as shown by the pitch-perfect RoboCop spoof Hammeroid, in which Sledge is equipped with speakers, a drinks dispenser and, to his delight, is welded to his gun. Utterly silly and great fun or, to paraphrase the man himself; "Trust him, he knows what he's doing."

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