HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN - Episode 9 Joseph Christiana, 4/29/12
Tomahawk assigned the introduction of 2011’s HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN to me because he thought, in his words, "I’d be able to raise something interesting out of the muck." Well, it’s a bloody muck indeed and I do think I have one or two appendages we might take a hack at. In fact, I think I may be able to even coin a new term for a film like this. But first, the plot:
The Hobo, played by Rutger Haur is riding the rails when he decides to get off at HOPE TOWN in order to pursue his version of the American Dream, namely, panhandling enough change to buy a lawnmower and start a landscaping business. What he finds is a town seemingly in the throes of apocalypse. The town is overrun by criminals of every variety and is ruled by a vicious crime family who make public displays of their gruesome killings in order to simultaneously entertain and scare the crap out of the general population.
The Hobo gets in the middle of this muck while sticking up for a street whore. The ensuing altercation between him and the frathouse-Jersey Shore-esque sons of the crime family leads him to the Hope Town Police. But the cops are in the pockets of the crime boss, see, and the Hobo is beaten viciously. The whore ends up nursing him to health and the Hobo soon decides to put the pursuit of the American dream on hold. Instead, he buys a 20 gauge shotgun and blows away all sorts of vagrancy in ways that are as gleeful as they are bloody.
The Crime Boss declares war on the vigilante along with anyone else who may be living on the streets. The hobo and the whore must fight for survival and then… well, you can sort of guess at the rest. One kill-gimmick is topped by another until the big blood-splattery ending.
There’s lots of reasons to see this movie if you like your killings fast and often and bloody as hell. The whole thing makes you feel like you’ve been on a six day Gears of War video game bender geeked out on a steady diet of Monster Energy Drink and crystal meth amphetamine. Hell, that sounds like a good time, I admit, and in a different time and place I’d probably have a raucous good time with the film. But the truth is it’s a blast for about a half hour before the in- joke gets threadbare, the violence numbingly repetitive, and the film, ultimately boring.
But boring wasn’t the problem I had with it. Like I said, another time and place it’s lots of fun and a solid recommendation. The director, Jason Eisner, has a clear vision (he must be wearing windshield wiper equipped goggles) and I sense he achieved making exactly the film he set out to make. My issue is what the film is in the larger sense of the word. It’s not horror so let’s cross that out right away. It’s not scary. Not intended to be.
And it’s not exploitation either. Some of the key ingredients to an exploitation film are a low budget, limited means of distribution, and its being produced outside the Hollywood establishment. We can check those first two right off. And though Alliance films is technically a major Canadian production company, the film had its beginnings as a trailer made for Grindhouse, the film from two of Hollywood’s reigning princes Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino.
So this film is made under their tutelage and it falls, with their films, into a category I call Fauxploitation. But where in Tarantino’s films you can mine through the hard shells of irony and cynicism to find something sincere, in films like this, from lesser filmmakers, there’s not a sentiment anywhere to be found. Not even genuine sentiment for the styles it’s cannibalizing. At least none that I gleaned.
I’ve always had trouble watching exploitation. I admit it's a guilty pleasure at times, but there’s something perverse and snide and condescending and smug about watching a film because it’ s bad. I think it has something to do with that phrase in the Bible: He that is among you without sin, let him cast the first stone. Now that applies to sin and sinners, but it also applies to art and artists and film and filmmakers.
And here what we have is a film made purposely bad. PURPOSELY BAD. And so stands in self- appointed judgment of the films that it claims to be paying homage to.
Ok. I came of age in the 90's, the golden era of ironic cynicism and to be honest, I’m tired of it. I'm tired of ironists and judges, especially those who’ll mock a film without ever having tried to make one (a real one, that is). I’m tired of ironic film watching. And I’m even more tired of ironic films too scared to make a film… instead of a film about other films. None of these things, in my opinion, bear much else than bloody, dead fruit.