Even though it’s not particularly entertaining or memorable, the violent thriller Shatter ticks a few interesting boxes in terms of film-history trivia. The only action movie released by UK’s Hammer Film Productions in the ’70s, Shatter was the second of two projects that Hammer coproduced with Hong Kong’s Shaw Brothers Productions, the reigning champions of martial-arts cinema during that era. The other Hammer/Shaw picture was the very strange Dracula flick The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires, which mixes bloodsuckers and martial artists to bewildering effect. Somewhat similarly, Shatter is a straightforward pursuit/revenge story that simply happens to include lots of martial-arts scenes because the narrative unfolds primarily in Hong Kong. Additionally, Shatter was the final Hammer project to feature the great Peter Cushing, a staple in the company’s monster and sci-fi offerings since the 1950s. A final bit of trivia worth mentioning is that Shatter was the last film directed by Michael Carreras, a second-generation Hammer executive who occasionally helmed films for the company. Carreras took over production of Shatter after the project’s original director, American low-budget filmmaker Monte Hellman, was fired.
Given this rich context, it would be pleasurable to report that Shatter is a zippy shot of escapism. Alas, it’s forgettable and turgid, with anemic performances and interchangeable supporting characters. A grumpy and tired-looking Stuart Whitman stars as Shatter, an assassin hired by mysterious entities to kill an African dictator. This first event is presented with a certain amount of kicky style, because Shatter uses a gun disguised as a camera. Traveling from Africa to Hong Kong in order to collect payment, Shatter soon learns that he’s been double-crossed by international power broker Hans Leber (Anton Diffring). Shatter also gets into a hassle with UK government operative Paul Rattwood (Cushing). Hiding in dingy hotels and scouring nightclubs for clues about the conspiracy in which he’s become entwined, Shatter eventually joins forces with martial artist Tai Pah (Ti Lung), which occasions scenes in which Shatter throws punches while Tai throws kicks. Innumerable other movies explore similar material more effectively, such as the Joe Don Baker romp Golden Needles and the Robert Mitchum thriller The Yakuza (both released, like Shatter, in 1974). Therefore, Shatter represents a weak attempt at entering the post-Enter the Dragon chop-socky sweepstakes—as well as an odd and disappointing chapter in the Hammer saga.