Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Movie Review: Hobo with a Shotgun

Hobo with a Shotgun no stars
Directed by: Jason Eisener.
Written by: John Davies & Jason Eisener & Rob Cotteril.
Starring: Rutger Hauer (Hobo), Gregory Smith (Slick), Molly Dunsworth (Abby), Brian Downey (Drake)), Nick Bateman (Ivan / RIP), Jeremy Akerman (Chief Wakeum).

This is most likely going to sound strange coming for the guy who in recent months gave positive reviews to Machete and Drive Angry, but I found Hobo with a Shotgun to be a thoroughly reprehensible movie. All three films have a similar goal in mind – to pay homage to the exploitation films of the 1970s, with a knowing wink and nudge to the audience. But while Machete and Drive Angry had a sense of fun – a tone that was so brazenly over the top that you could just sit back and enjoy the ride, Hobo with a Shotgun seems to revel in the way it wallows in the filth and blood on display in the movie. Despite my better judgment, I had a good time watching Machete and Drive Angry. Coming out of Hobo with a Shotgun, I felt I needed a shower.

Co-written and directed by Canadian Jason Eisener, Hobo with a Shotgun secured funding after winning a contest used to promote Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino’s Grindhouse. The contest was to create a trailer, like the ones seen in Grindhouse, for the same type of film. If you saw Grindhouse in theaters in Canada, you actually saw this trailer as part of that film. With an actual budget behind him, Eisener used it to secure Rutger Hauer to play the Hobo in the feature version.

From the first scene in Hobo with a Shotgun, I was pretty sure I was going to hate the movie. We see the Hobo coming into town, and walking the streets on the inner city, seeing crime all around him, a man with a camera staging bum fights, and then witnesses a horrific murder. The town is run by a criminal named The Drake (Brian Downey), and his two sadistic sons – Slick (Gregory Smith) and Ivan (Nick Bateman). The Hobo, along with many of the residents, watch as these three run down an associate, put is head through a modern day version of the stocks – the size of a sewer grate, put the man in an actual sewer, tie a barb wire noose around his neck, attach the other end to a car, and then rip his head off. Oh, and after that happens, and the geysers of blood coming pouring out of his neck, a scantily clad woman dances in the blood. Good times.

The movie devolves from there, becoming a series of bloody confrontations, until the Hobo can no longer take it, and buys a shotgun and delivers justice “one shell at a time” as the tagline of the movie helpfully informs us. He also befriends a prostitute named Abbey (Molly Dunsworth) and talks a lot about bears. One scene of bloodletting leads to another, until we finally get to the even bloodier climax.

Eisener takes great pains in trying to make us view the Hobo as a real person. He has a dream to start his own lawn mowing business, and has been saving up to buy the lawnmower of his dreams. When he cannot take it anymore, he gives up his dream and buys a shotgun instead. Hauer, who in recent years has actually done some decent work – mostly in small roles in films like Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Sin City and Batman Begins – also, takes the role very seriously. He does nothing to take the edge off all of the violence, the way Cage did in Drive Angry or Trejo did in Machete. Instead, we just have to sit and watch it all.

As a movie, Hobo with a Shotgun probably most resembles an actual 1970s exploitation movie in terms of it visual look than anything in the recent wave of homages to the genre. But I don’t think that’s a good thing. Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino are both better directors than the 1970s filmmakers whose work they admire so, so when they had their hand at directing these in Grindhouse, they made films that were infinitely better than the originals could ever hope to be. But Eisener doesn’t have that skill – or at least he doesn’t show it. Shot in extremely fake looking Technicolor, with horrid camera work and editing, Hobo with a Shotgun acts as a reminder that most of those exploitation films in the 1970s were damn near unwatchable. He pays homage to the same filmmakers that Rodriguez and Tarantino did, but lacks their wit and style. Instead, we get an ugly looking movie, about ugly people, doing terrible things. What’s the damn point in that?

I’m sure that Hobo with a Shotgun will grow into a cult movie. Films like this always seem to have a following among a certain, small percentage of the filmgoers. And if it’s your thing, that by all means, revel in it. I for one, found the movie to be the worst film I’ve seen in a theater in years

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