The Bloodiest Hobo
Hobo With A Shotgun Canada 2011
Directed by Jason Eisener
Momentum Region 2
Like the brilliant Machete, Hobo With A Shotgun started life as a fake trailer in the Rodriguez and Tarantino joint Grindhouse venture... although I understand it only played as that trailer in the Canadian release of the movie (apparently it was a competition winner). I’d read a lot of feedback to it on places like Twitter and it had some pretty positive reviews... all except one person who really seemed to hate it (my only guess is it’s a generation thing).
Like Planet Terror, Death Proof and Machete before it, there’s a definite knack to getting these kinds of movies right for a modern audience and a lot of that has to do with the “nostalgia haze” that comes with movies of a certain age and the ability to look back at things through a certain, almost hyper-real attitude which gives the movie a degree self-awareness which would have been, by its very nature, totally absent on the original, definitive articles which these movies are paying homage to.
And that’s the difference, in my mind, between enjoying these films and embracing them on a fun level or standing back from the action a little bit and admiring the artistry of the brush strokes in comparison with the original archetypes of this sub-genre. This is why, to me, Tarantino’s Death Proof section of Grindhouse is not anywhere near as successful as either Planet Terror or the later produced Machete. Death Proof was far more like the product it was actually trying to emulate. Everything felt just right for that style of cheap, exploitative American moviemaking that, asides from obvious indicators such as the “out of their time” cast list, the movie is almost indiscernible from the original product. Trouble is... I’ve seen the original product and those experiences are usually frustrating and not something I’d care to repeat. Those movies, the US variety anyway, were ugly and uninspiring and, fairly often, quite bland. So I guess what I’m saying here about Death Proof is, for once, Tarantino made an uninspiring and bland movie.
Planet Terror and Machete, on the other hand, are both major triumphs of the genre because, well they’re giving it a bit more than what you would have seen in the original versions of these kinds of movies. Certainly they’re made in the style of those grungy, violent, seventies B-movies... but they are much more fun and certainly a lot wilder with their set pieces than a lot of the directors and producers of those 70s movies would have been brave enough to release.
So how did I find Hobo With A Shotgun? Well, for starters this movie doesn’t really seem to be parodying 70s “grindhouse” at all... except for in the choice of typography, which is brilliantly tied to that period. No, this is a movie that looks and feels much more like it belongs within the realm of the cheesy, straight-to-video market of the early to mid 80s. That’s probably a better viewpoint to approach this movie with. As the “straight to VHS or BETA” secondary market... that should give you some idea of the tone and feel of the movie.
But how does it do in comparison to its modern predecessors? Just fine. Actually, more than just fine.
For starters, getting Rutger Hauer to play the lead hobo is casting genius... and giving him a character who moves along to another town to beg for money so he can save up to... buy a lawnmower is just an odd enough premise to keep you rooting for him. However, the town he’s ended up with is run by a boss and his sons who hold the towns population in a grip of terror and who have the police in their pockets. They really are quite appallingly bad in the way that only direct-to-video villains were back in the 80s and after not too much time you really want these guys and their minions to die a long drawn out and overtly gratuitous death... each and every one of them. And of course, because this is an over the top and rose tinted glasses echo of these kinds of movies... that’s exactly what you get.
And when I say rose-tinted, I’m not that far off from describing the movie in a literal sense also. The colours in this movie absolutely jump out at you from the screen, kiss you, slap you around the face a little and then jump back into shot and wave at you for a while. Everything about the colouring and lighting on this movie is almost hallucinogenic... it’s like what would happen of Mario Bava and Dario Argento had got together to paint a fence and found a couple of gallons of fluorescent paint to do the job with... and this movie is that fence. In other words... this movie is a visual powerhouse of beauty and, just to give you an absolute contradiction to the beauty of the images... it’s also one of the most violent and bloodiest movies I’ve seen in quite some time. Really gory here folks. Over the top, perhaps, but certainly enough to really put off people with a nervous disposition.
But the most important thing about this movie, with its mean spirited villains who have created a town of absolute despair, is that the central hero character played by Rutger Hauer, even with his “love interest” subplot which works really well, is not your typical 80s antihero. He is not an antihero in any sense of the word in fact. What we have here in Hobo With A Shotgun is a bona fide all American, righteous, Roy Rogers meets James Stewart doing Destry, full blooded hero. A man of high morals and standards who is ready to stand up for what is right and just... even if it means he has to give up on his dream of buying a lawnmower to be able to afford a shotgun and some shells. A hobo’s gotta do what a hobo’s gotta do... it won’t be pleasant and the ending won’t be particularly happy either... but it has to be done and at least the ending is a good one... and you can’t ask much more than that.
Hobo With A Shotgun, ladies and gentlemen... not a film for the squeamish to be sure but certainly a big recommendation from me. Well, with that kind of combination of technical brilliance and a high moral centre.. it was hardly likely to get any other verdict, if truth be told. Take a look and see for yourself.