December 23, 2003


Oy, Yo Mama (Armond White, December 19, 2003,

Blaxploitation movies are both saluted and bitten in The Hebrew Hammer, a satire that applies the conventions of '70s black stud detective movies like Shaft, Hammer, Slaughter, Truck Turner to contemporary Jewish American culture. It begins with a flashback to the title character's childhood in which little Mordecai is teased by his non-Jewish schoolmates because the spinning-top dreidel he got as a Hanukkah present doesn't match up with their own, plentiful Christmas gifts. As an adult, Mordecai Jefferson Carver (played by Adam Goldberg) becomes a hipster, righteous defender of bullied Jewish kids while also making a career as a private eye. (He's called "a certified circumcised dick" to a tune that resembles Isaac Hayes' "Theme from Shaft.")

Jonathan Hesselman wrote and directed The Hebrew Hammer with a fan's knowledge of the Blaxploitation genre and with a frank and sometimes-funny tone of commiseration. Many of the film's jokes convey Hesselman's awareness of the need for aggression and revenge – the need for heroes – that made Blaxploitation movies such a draw for urban youth. What makes the film noteworthy is that Hesselman's comic perspective on ethnic identity spreads the need for role models and saviors across American's ethnic rainbow.

The analogy made here between black movie fantasy and white Jewish movie fantasy is sometimes awkward.

It seems unlikely that there's anything in the movie funnier than someone writing that last line with a straight face.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 23, 2003 9:24 PM
Comments for this post are closed.