20 July 2011

HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN- Review

Created by Jason Eisener for Robert Rodriguez's Grindhouse trailers competition, Hobo With A Shotgun is another of those features adapted from a spoof "Coming Attractions" style preview. Like Machete before it, it runs out of steam after a certain point, but unlike Machete, it's mercifully uncomplicated.

Rutger Hauer plays the titular hobo, who hops off a freight train passing through Hope Town, re-dubbed Scum Town by the violent family of lunatics whose reign of crime beleaguers the town. The hobo's plan is to scrimp and save enough change to purchase a lawnmower from a pawn shop and start his own business. It's only when he realises how bad things are in the town that he decides to take justice into his own hands, by using his savings to buy a shotgun instead.

I cannot overstate how uncomplicated this film really is. Throughout, I was constantly placing it in a cinematic frame of reference to which it clearly does not belong. This is not Dirty Harry. It is not a modern spin on High Plains Drifter, wherein a Man With No Name cleans up crime in a festering town. The hobo is not some kind of samurai, for making a virtue of a way of life that is no longer viable in today's developing world. Come the fuck on, it's called Hobo With A Shotgun, and films like this always prove better when not densely populated with cine-literacy or social subtext.


Still, there were a couple of things that kind of fooled me into looking at it a little deeper throughout. First, Rutger Hauer gives a very classy performance in the lead. It takes a lot to class up a film as demented and deliberately Troma-reverent as this one, but few can deliver monologues better than Hauer, so he elevates the film. Second of all, there's a level of intelligence to Eisener's direction. I've seen better directors get the grindhouse spoof thing wrong, namely Tarantino and Rodriguez, but Eisener has his head screwed on right.

It's like a very hyperactive version of what Eisener might well be capable of, bathed as it is in oversaturated primary colours and the blood of a thousand shonky supporting actors. But most importantly, he knows to play it broadly; he knows that it takes more than just one or two inventive deaths to hold an audience's attention; and, thankfully, he knows not to cast Lindsay Lohan or Jessica Alba.

The broad approach carries the concept to feature-length by enabling Eisener to go supernatural and introduce a pair of apparently indestructible warriors in old-timey armour, called the Plague. Under Eisener, it feels less like a last gasp and more like the film's second wind. With affection for the B-movie schlock with which it could seamlessly blend, Eisener makes a more enjoyable retro-exploitation flick than I can remember seeing since before Grindhouse.

Like Super, Hobo With A Shotgun will enjoy most of its life on DVD, though it's a film that probably deserves a VHS special edition. Rutger Hauer's firing on all cylinders as the vagrant vigilante, while an endearing cast of unknown faces play out the supporting characters with aplomb. There are a number of crass but enjoyable one-liners and some shocking and inventive violence. It's certainly not for everyone, but it is exactly what it says on the tin- a film about a hobo and his shotgun.

Hobo With A Shotgun is now showing in select cinemas nationwide, and arrives on DVD and Blu-ray on August 1st.
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I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.

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