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Hobo With A Shotgun (2011,Canada)

02/08/2011

Director: Jason Eisener         Starring: Rutger Hauer, Pasha Ebrahimi, Brian Downey

Much like Robert Rodriguez’ demented and somewhat convoluted Machete, Hobo With A Shotgun began life as one of the fake trailers sandwiched between the films that made up Rodriguez and Tarantino’s Grindhouse project when it was originally released (across the pond) as a double bill. Much like Machete, the Hobo trailer suggested a film full of potential. The question is, has director Jason Eisener succeeded where Rodriguez failed and managed to create a film that lives up to the authentic Grindhouse ethos?

Rutger Hauer plays the Hobo of the title, an honest man with an honest ambition, to earn enough money from begging to buy a second hand lawnmower in order to turn his life around. When he arrives in town though he is appalled by the wanton lawlessness and violence that blights the city and when his attempt to purchase said lawnmower is interrupted by a brutal armed robbery he decides to invest in a shotgun instead and sets to work cleaning up the streets, one shell at a time. This puts him at odds with the sadistic local crime kingpin Drake (Dowling) and his two equally vile (not to mention idiotic) sons who make it their mission to bring his vigilante spree to an end by any means necessary.

Tonally, this couldn’t be more different than Machete. Whereas that film was very much played for laughs with big name stars turning up to be subjected to some good natured ridicule, Hobo, despite plenty of gags and some comedically OTT gore effects, has a much more straight faced, frankly nasty feel. The bad guys are really, really bad, the worst kind of sadistic psychopaths revelling in the pain and suffering of others. The good guy isn’t much better, it’s just that he revels in the pain and suffering of the evil doers. This sets up countless, gratuitous, ultra-gory set pieces involving a plethora of inventive ways to seperate people from their heads, limbs and organs. The thing that saves the film from an inescapable descent into outright sadism is the over the top, comic book special effects that soften the horrendous nature of some of the scenes with grisly humour and garish fake blood. The vibe of these things is spot on for the feel Eisener is aiming for with the film and a far cry from the sanitised tomfoolery of Machete.

If anything the bad guys are a little overplayed and underwritten although how much of this is an attempt at genre authenticity and how much is due to failings on the writers’ parts I can’t really tell. Drake’s sons are particularly poorly scripted, their dialogue an appalling string of sadism and misogyny but again, this is arguably a nod to the genre rather than deficincies in the writing. I found it a bit annoying though. This is balanced out by the tremendously over earnest and deadly serious approach taken by Rutger Hauer in his portrayal as the Hobo. With all the best lines in the film (with the exception of the Paedo-Santa – “I’m gonna come down both your chimneys”) he gets to go to town with pseudo-religious rhetoric, vigilante monologues and furious, vengeful rants. He never fails to convince in the role, playing the Hobo as some satanic envoy sent to Earth to fetch the wicked back to hell.

The look of the film is spot on with an eighties aesthetic in the production design and the same sort of lurid, over saturated colour timings associated with the video nasty era. The grain has been over-emphasised (probably a digital effect) but it’s been done unobtrusively without the excessive scratched film affectations of the likes of Planet Terror and no “missing reel” shennanigans. This is a blessing, showing you can subtly suggest a retro feel without having to draw excessive attention to it. A lot of effort has been put into the mechanical effects for the various decapitations, shootings and so on and the emphasis on these scenes, to the point where the rest of the film feels like a flimsy excuse within which to stage them, is faithfull to the genre that Eisener is trying to recreate.

Compared to Machete, I would say it is a much more faithfull rehashing of the Grindhouse genre staples. As a result though, it is a far nastier viewing experience than the fun and frolics of Rodriguez and pals. This is not a film for the faint of heart or the squeamish. Littered with gratuitous violence and gore, some of it sexualised, some of it directed towards children and all of it performed with reckless abandon I know plenty of people that this film would shock, maybe even sicken. That doesn’t mean it isn’t played out with a cheeky nudge and a wink, just that the humour is less overt and the horror of the film is less cushioned by familiarity with big name stars and an overtly comedic script. If you like ’em mean and nasty and dripping in the red stuff then it’s worth a look.

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