Good Thing He Didn’t Buy the Lawnmower

Hobo with a Shotgun (March 25, 2011)     3/5

Directed by Jason Eisener (Alliance Films, Magnet Releasing)

Before Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez released their loving, double-feature tribute to exploitation flicks, Grindhouse, they held an international contest for the making of fake teaser trailers to help promote the film.  Hobo with a Shotgun not only won, but also spawned a feature-length movie, money being handed into the palms of the first-time, Canadian filmmakers.  Last year, Rodriguez did the same himself with one of the trailers before the film, Machete, starring Danny Trejo.  Much criticism surrounding the film involved the aspect that it was filmed digitally, unlike Death Proof or Planet Terror, the dynamic duo’s Grindhouse featurettes.  In other words, it did little to resemble the movies it paid homage to, or the trailer that inspired it.

I assure you, for better or worse, Hobo with a Shotgun completely fulfills the promise of replicating those trash pictures it so gleefully glorifies.  Not because the footage is purposefully “damaged,” as it was brilliantly done in Grindhouse, but because it is an exercise in complete, relentless carnage.  Rutger Hauer plays a wearied, frustrated hobo, who wanders into a town of corruption (to put it mildly), only to take the law into his own hands with the use of a good ‘ol barrel and bullets.  Luckily for us, he never seems to run out of the latter.  The kills are brutal, unique, shocking, surprisingly offensive, and gory beyond excess.  In other words, everything fans want and more.  I don’t want ruin any of the horrifically violent sequences, considering their suddenness and surprise is part of the fun.  At times, they’re hilarious.

But if there is one fault Hobo with a Shotgun has, it’s for not being as gaspingly hysterically all the way through as it is in a few of those pervasive moments.  How great would this film be if it had the consistent humor of 2008’s blaxpoitation parody Black Dynamite, combined with Hobo’s bone-snapping, gut-spilling, head-exploding thrills?  As it stands, Hobo with a Shotgun is quite dark in tone.  But maybe we are so spoiled by homages that we forget what it would be like to see the real thing, stuck to the seat of a grungy theater at two o’clock in the morning.  Hobo fulfills the promise of that experience, and on that front, it’s a bloody treat.

The movie, although not using the typical distressed technique that Tarantino and Rodriguez utilized in Grindhouse, is filmed in glorious, grainy Technicolor.  That said, the coloring is bold, beautiful, and quite exquisite.  And thanks to Rutger Hauer, vividly flashing his dirty white hair, yellow teeth, and that trusty companion by his side, director Jason Eisner provides us a hero to cheer for.  Hauer, deadpan line delivery and possibly improvised monologues intact, reminds us that he is a surprisingly good actor.  Blade Runner this is not, but at least the film gives him a chance to have fun with all that blind, acting fury.  But maybe it isn’t quite acting.  Maybe that anger harnessed in the portrayal of that hobo, as Hauer blasts bullets through every section of the human body, is the result of a man begging to have his talents better utilized in his old age.  Maybe he has (or had) the potential to become a Gran Torino-era Clint Eastwood.  Whatever the case, it is quite a fun performance.  And if you are prepared for the brutal gorefest, hopefully having fasted for several days, you may find this to be quite a “fun” movie.  If you’re into that kind of thing…

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