|In Short:||A wildly ridiculous ride of hilarity, depravity and disappointment.|
|Recommended:||Worth a look, but mainly an experience geared to genre fans.|
|HOBO:||I used to be like you. A long time ago. All brand new and perfect. No mistakes, no regrets. People look at you and think of how wonderful your future will be. They want you to be something special, like a doctor, or a lawyer. I hate to tell you this, but if you grow up here, you're more likely to wind up selling your bodies on the streets, or shooting dope from dirty needles in a bus stop. And if you're successful, you'll make money selling junk to crackheads. And don't think twice about killing someone's wife, because you won't even know it's wrong in the first place. Maybe you'll end up like me. A hobo with a shotgun.|
Writing a review for a film like Hobo with a Shotgun is an incredibly uneasy task. While it would be far too easy to pick apart piece by piece what a truly awful film it is, there is certainly more than enough to admire about it as well. For one, it has such a brilliantly succinct title that sums up exactly what you will see when you enter the theatre: a nameless Hobo (Rutger Hauer) dispatching criminals with a shotgun. The plot, or what little semblance of one that exists, throws in corrupt businessmen, rampant drug use in a rapidly decaying small town, the stereotypical hooker with the heart of gold, a subplot involving getting enough money to start a lawn mowing business; the list is nearly endless.
But I digress, for it is obvious after seeing the trailers for this film, and the faux trailer that inspired it four years ago (which I sadly was never able to see on the big screen), that the only reason anyone would see Jason Eisner’s ridiculously twisted vision is so they can watch the Hobo deliver justice the only way he knows how.
And for the better part of the film, that is precisely what Eisner whips at the camera in the most grisly ways possible. This is quite likely the most graphically bloody and gory film I have seen in months, and the film revels in every moment it spills. While the shotgun is the primary way most of the people in the film meet their end, Eisner does not stop there. Toasters, flamethrowers, harpoon guns, and even an ice skate help round out some of the other messy death scenes that occur during the movie. Even with the film being a Canadian production, I was rather impressed at the attention to detail in these scenes, gleefully replicating the insane amount of murder and destruction of the grindhouse films Hobo with a Shotgun proudly stands beside. Adding in the effects to ruin the picture quality (ala Tarantino and Rodriguez) was also a very nice touch.
I also must point out how gutsy Eisner is. For such a ferociously violent and utterly disgusting film, he still manages to push the envelope far beyond the realm of bad taste in more than a few scenes. In one specific instance, I was completely shocked at what was taking place on screen. Not just because it was one of the darkest things ever committed to celluloid, and not just because it was twistedly hilarious, but because Eisner had actually thought of this idea in the first place. And while it is only one of many cringe worthy and repulsive moments in the film, it stands out because it was taken to the limits of what is truly acceptable. While the torture porn genre has led to some rather peculiar imagery in the past decade, none of them really stuck with me weeks after seeing the film. Some of the things that happen in this movie, including the previously referenced scene, made me literally sick to my stomach and they have stuck with me since. So kudos on that success Mr. Eisner, whether it was intentional or not.
But for all I enjoyed about Hobo with a Shotgun, the weeks since watching it have given me some time to reflect on it -- which is never a good thing for this kind of film. Its perverse and absurdly hilarious nature is truly meant for a certain kind of audience. But even taking that into account, it still falls short of a few expectations.
I will not attempt to decipher and dissect the script, as it would be a waste of time. It exists specifically to allow the hobo to enter the town, decide it needs to get cleaned up, and then gives him the time to take it upon himself to do it. But even for such a cut and dry film (running a swift 86 minutes), it feels like Eisner had to pad it out with nonsensical drivel to get it to feature-length. While the first two acts juggle between the simplistic plot and superfluous scenes (some work, many do not), the entire third act is just a mess. The entire section involving “The Plague” is simply ludicrous, and does not belong in the film at all. While I laughed at them fighting off a squid (yes, you read that right), I have no idea what point it served the rest of the film. Even the ridiculously amped up violence made sense in the general scheme of ideas the film was pushing, but their inclusion late in the game just took the film in a whole different, unneeded direction. It throws off the pacing, and when the abrupt and horrifically disappointing ending finally takes place soon afterwards, it makes it feel more like Eisner had no idea where to go after he set up all the scenes from the trailer. I realize this is his first feature film, but just letting a story element as large as this waved off simply as an allusion to the genre just feels silly. And in such a ridiculously silly movie like Hobo with a Shotgun, that says a lot.
Acting-wise, I am still unsure how to react to the performances. While it looks like the majority of actors are having a great time making the film, there are no real standout performers outside of Hauer (although I will give credit to Molly Dunsworth for taking the kind of beating Bruce Campbell made look easy in the Evil Dead films). But then, Hauer is a bit of an enigma as well. He carries the film brilliantly, and never cops out once to the joke the film really is. He is stern, and deadly serious. He plays the Hobo exactly to how you would have imagined it. But there are more than a few instances where he looks genuinely disappointing and appalled to have ever considered being involved in a movie like this. We only catch fleeting glimpses of this disgusted look, but it is more than apparent that he is not truly satisfied at all times.
While there is a lot to really like about Hobo with a Shotgun, there is a lot to dislike. As preposterously fun as it was to watch, the film is ridiculously uneven, even by grindhouse standards. It will likely please fans of the genre, or anyone who loves seeing absurdly played out moments of violence and carnage, but there will be some who will be just as disappointed as I was. The wait from faux trailer to legit film was lengthy, but I think they should have still put in a bit more effort to make it a cohesive final project.
At least they brought back the original Hobo.
-- David Baldwin