Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Hobo With A Shotgun [film review]

* Limited Canadian theatrical release in March; released on DVD and Blu-Ray today
Hobo With A Shotgun follows in the footsteps of last year's Machete (read my review here), which originated as a fake trailer included in Grindhouse, Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez's 2007 double feature. Canadian theatrical screenings of that film also included another fake trailer for Hobo from amateur filmmaker Jason Eisener, who had won a contest. That lead to discussions with Alliance Films, the Canadian film production company and Grindhouse's distributor, to turn his idea into a feature length film, which now stars M.I.A. 80's star Rutger Hauer. Hobo makes Machete look like The King's Speech in terms of restraint and taste, with both b-movie schlockfests cut from the same cloth, paying significant homage to violent 70's and 80's exploitation cinema.
The plot (actually fairly succinctly summed up right there in the title) is steeped in those decades' frequent revenge/vigilante justice-type of story lines, and is intentionally derivative to the point where it borders on stifling, as the irony virtually never lets up during the movie. Hauer, haggardly looking every minute of his 67 years, plays the hobo who arrives in Hope Town, which is located in an unnamed part of North America (the town is played by Halifax). Hope Town has been overrun with lawlessness, as the corrupt police force kowtows to a crazy crime kingpin dressed in a white suit named Drake (played by Brian Downey), who conducts business with the aid of his two equally loony sons Ivan (played by Nick Bateman) and Slick (played by Gregory Smith). Hauer's hobo, naturally, decides to take matters into his own hands and clean the scum off the streets, so to speak, working towards his goal of one day owning a lawnmower (on several occasions throughout the film he dreamily looks at one displayed in a pawn shop window) and starting his own grass cutting business. I shit you not. Along the way he finds himself caring for a hooker with - wait for it - a heart of gold.
There's no level of bad taste that Eisener (who co-wrote the script) won't stoop to, which is made clearly obvious in one of the first scenes. Drake and his sons murder his brother, Logan (played by Robb Wells, one of the Trailer Park Boys), on the streets in front of a large crowd of onlookers. Logan is stuffed into a manhole with just his head exposed above ground and then decapitated by a barbed wire noose pulled by a speeding truck. Drake's lady friend, clad in only a fur coat and bikini, then orgiastically bathes in the spurting blood emanating from the corpse. Then, just to put an exclamation point on the ridiculous gruesomeness and set the lowbrow tone for what Hobo has in store for the viewer, the brother's head is mounted on Drake's pickup truck as a hood ornament. Some other charming things you can look forward to: a pedophile dressed in a Santa outfit, the homeless hunted down and killed like animals, a school bus full of children torched alive while the "burn baby burn" chorus from "Disco Inferno" plays on the soundtrack, human heads smashed like melons, disemboweled bodies, and death by hockey skate. There's lots of dialogue in this movie that is so off-colour that I'd be too embarrassed to repeat much of it here (and I am far from what you would call a prude). Here's a sample, though: before a cop tries to rape a hooker he tells her, "Hey baby doll, I am gonna break your legs off to get to your sweetness". Lovely.
Eisener makes liberal use of bad 80's music and there's plenty of 80's-style bright, prime colours worked into the film's set pieces, but it's not immediately clear whether the film is, in fact, set in that decade (there's a weirdly displaced feel as to the time and space the Hobo world inhabits). Numerous things in the movie don't make sense and more than a few ideas would have been better left in the imaginations of Eisener and the other screenwriters, such as the plot angle involving The Plague, a couple of Road Warrior-style bounty hunters who are almost too preposterous, even for this movie. I will admit, they do sport some pretty badass harpoon guns that lynch their enemies, though.
Hobo With a Shotgun is quite possibly the most repugnant, least life-affirming movie I've ever watched...which is also part of its (admittedly limited) charm. The aimed-for cheesiness is smothered on to way-beyond-excess levels and the sadistic violence is off the charts, which should go a long way in making this one a cult staple for a long, long time.
Rating: ★★★★

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