Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Film Review - 'Hobo With A Shotgun'

Back when Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino were still in the process of putting together their ambitious (and, sadly, ultimately largely unsuccessful) Grindhouse experiment, there were a variety of fake film trailers floating around that were intended to complete the 'grindhouse double-feature' experience that the two film-makers were hoping to create. If you were paying attention, at the time, you may remember some of them - the best, after all, did go on to become quite popular in their own right. Robert Rodriquez's own trailer for a fake (at the time) film by the name of Machete even went on to eventually become a full-length film that proved popular enough to earn itself a sequel.

The most interesting fake trailers made for Grindhouse, though, were easily the ones made as entries for a little competition ran alongside the development of the Grindhouse films, themselves. The winner of that strange little competition, for example, was a fake trailer for a little film called Hobo With A Shotgun - a hilariously simple film whose entire premise could be found in its title.

Much like with Machete, though, it seems that Hobo With A Shotgun was simply too 'good' to remain a 'fake trailer' made for another film. So, again much like with Machete, Hobo With A Shotgun also eventually went on to become a full-length feature film.

The action begins when a nameless drifter (Rutger Hauer) wanders into town with a simple dream - to save up enough money to buy a lawn-mower (which he intends to use to start his own small business mowing people's lawns). Unfortunately, for our hero, this particular town also happens to be ruled by a brutal crime boss, known as the Drake (Brian Downey), and his two sadistic sons, Slick and Ivan (Gregory Smith and Nick Bateman). The people are clearly terrified and the police are either unable, or unwilling, to put a stop to the violence.

At first, the Hobo tries to ignore the violence and corruption taking place around him. But, he still feels compelled to rescue a young prostitute named Abby (Molly Dunsworth) from whatever, clearly horrible, fate Slick had planned for her - an act of kindness which only serves to get him brutalized.

The final straw, though, comes when criminals burst into a pawn-shop just as our hero is finally about to fulfill his dream. With the lives of the other customers at stake, the heroic Hobo makes an important decision - buying a shotgun, instead of the lawn-mower he wanted, and setting out on a brutal campaign to clean up to streets.

Of course, the Hobo's vigilante activities eventually attract the attention of the Drake and his sadistic sons - and, things quickly escalate into absolute chaos.

Hobo With A Shotgun is, obviously, extremely violent - it's a brutal and very bloody film which, quite obviously, seems to revel in the violence it presents to the audience. What makes it all bearable, though, is that Hobo With A Shotgun is also a film that clearly doesn't concern itself with any sense of 'reality'. The characters that you will meet in this film, and the situations that they find themselves in, are all played so absurdly over the top that it becomes nearly impossible to take the film too seriously.

Honestly, when a film includes lines like "when life give you razor blades, make a baseball bat covered in razor blades", followed by a close up demonstration of the effectiveness of razor blade covered baseball bats, it should be fairly obvious what sort of tone the film-makers are actually going for. Even at its worst, it doesn't feel possible to be genuinely offended by anything that takes place in Hobo With A Shotgun. Grossed out, sure - but, not offended. Or, at least, that was the case for me - your own mileage may vary, obviously.

While most of the performances seem to aim for some degree of deliberately broad caricature that fits the overall tone, Rutger Hauer and Molly Dunsworth also manage to add a surprising amount of genuine heart to this strange little film. Rutger Hauer, in particular, devotes himself to the role with an impressive level of professionalism. It might not be on quite the same level as improvising one of the greatest monologues ever put to film, but he is still able to make this nameless Hobo into a character that audiences can feel some sense of connection with.

The most interesting thing about this film, though, is probably the fact that it doesn't actually seem to be intended as a parody. Instead, it feels much more like a deliberate throw-back to the particular brand of absurdly violent exploitation films it is trying to emulate. Rather than mocking those earlier films, in the way that you might expect (by drawing attention to the occasionally shoddy film-making, for example), it seems as though the film-makers genuinely wanted to make an old-fashioned 'grindhouse' style exploitation film of their own - one which could be compared to those earlier films, and which you could imagine existing alongside them.

When Hobo With A Shotgun is at its most violent, it presents that violence in the same way, and using the same techniques, as those earlier films. When the film is crass and offensive (as it often is), it's crass and offensive in the same way as those earlier films. And, when the film is at its funniest (as it occasionally is), it is funny in the same way, and for the same reasons, as those earlier films - by reveling in its own violent absurdity and its blatant 'shock tactics'.

Hobo With A Shotgun clearly isn't a film for everyone - and, it's certainly not a film I'm going to recommend that everyone should see. Putting aside the truly absurd amount of fake blood you will see in the film, and the genuinely great performance given by Rutger Hauer, the film itself is actually fairly forgettable. Entertaining, sure - but, not necessarily something you should seek out unless you consider yourself to be something of a 'gorehound'. So, honestly, you probably already know whether this is the right film for you.

(Warning: The trailer below should probably come with a content warning of its own)

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