Hammers Over the Anvil certifies Russell Crowe as an Australian sex symbol of the early 1990's, with an opening scene that features Crowe riding bare back on a horse while bare butt! These early film's feature a little different Russell Crowe than one of the post Gladiator era that most may be used to, as he portrays characters that are much more worldly, even to the point of arrogant. Unlike his later career four of Russell's first six films have him in multiple love scenes and other various stages of undress. It's clear a lot of these earlier roles are probably more loved by his female following, which is most definitely the case with Hammers Over the Anvil.
Hammers Over the Anvil is the story of Alan Marshall a young crippled boy who lives with his washed up father and sister. His father used to be a great horse breaker, but lost his confidence and became more of a shell of a man in Alan's eyes. Now Alan looks up to the local horse breaker, East Driscoll (Russell Crowe) as his sort of hero. Driscoll is young, cocky, handsome and a master at training wild horses. Alan's one goal in life is to someday be like East and have the ability to ride.
Alan also finds himself having a crush on local aristocrat Grace McAlister. Formally from England the McAlister's have settled in Australia for the time being. The relationship between Grace and her husband is rather bizarre as her husband almost gains some strange pleasure at Grace teasing East, who has rendered his services in mating one of their horses. East and Grace seem to have their own mating going on as Alan discovers the two of the getting extremely hot and heavy in the barn. Finding his hero and his school boy crush intertwined comes as a bit of a shock to Alan, but he is forced to keep their affair under wraps. Everything soon begins to go south as East attempts to get Grace to leave her husband and run off with him.
As a whole I was pretty disappointed with Hammers Over the Anvil, while it's visually stunning (referring to the Australian scenery, not Russell's rear end) the rest of the film is extremely bland. I found the story quite boring, slow and a little scattered. In terms of the acting it wasn't much of an improvement. In earlier films I could at least say Russell's performance saved the film, but that's simply not the case here, Crowe's performance is about as bland and boring as everyone else is. There is absolutely no chemistry between any of the characters, which makes the story and the character's presumed relationships quite dull and meaningless.
If Hammers Over the Anvil gets notice or mention in Russell's illustrious career it's usually because of his nude scene at the beginning, which in all actuality doesn't show much more than a love scene he had in Proof. This appears to be all the film is known for, which essentially doesn't say much for the story or the characters. Overall, Hammers Over the Anvil is a mediocre film with a very subdued and average performance by Russell Crowe, and seeing that most of Crowe's earlier films are only worth watching because of him alone, I have to say most people would probably be better off passing on this one. It's easily the most mediocre and bland in comparison to the wide range of characters he's previously played.