Friday, 15 April 2011

Hobo with a Shotgun

Certificate: 15
Running time: 87 mins
Director: Jason Eisener
Starring: Rutger Hauer, Gregory Smith, Nick Bateman, Molly Dunsworth
Genre: Exploitation/Action
Country: Canada
I am Tired, Need $ for a Lawnmower

Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino’s experiment with a genre of film long forgotten has left fans of exploitation with a mixed bag of emotion.  Planet Terror was a thrill ride that was original and entertaining in equal amounts, Death Proof was lazy, uninteresting and half baked yet their Grindhouse expedition grabbed the imagination of audiences worldwide and offered us up two gems in particular.  The first was the trailer for Machete, Danny Trejo’s reoccurring character in the work of Rodriguez a film that delivered more in a sixty second trailer than it actually managed to when it was finally fleshed out in feature length.  The second was Jason Eisener’s trailer for the wonderfully titled Hobo with a Shotgun.

Riding in on the boxcar a hobo (played by Hauer) finds himself in what remains of a small picturesque town called Hope Town.  Unfortunately of late Hope Town has become diseased and is rotten to the core, the now rebranded Fuck Town is under the rule of crime Kingpin The Drake (Brian Downey) and his two sons Slick (Smith) and Ivan (Bateman). Beaten to within an inch of his life, and with neither friend nor law to turn to, our hobo hero relinquishes his dream of owning a lawnmower in favour for an instrument to cut down the urban weeds that have covered the town…a shotgun!

Welcome to the Glory hole
Fans of the original exploitation era will have been eagerly awaiting the release of Hobo and hoping against hope that the anticipation and wait have been worthwhile.  Hope no more, it is.  From the moment the film opens it feels like it belongs to the era and could comfortably play alongside Three Tough Guys, Big John and Little Laura or even Cotton Comes to Harlem from the credits to the colour palette to the cinematic style it will be almost impossible to tell the production era if one wasn’t already aware of it.  Eisener is clearly a lifelong fan of the movement and it shows from the use of cobbled and simple dialogue to the lack of cellular communication technology, this film is a child of the 1970’s.  It’s extremely difficult to under write a screenplay or dialogue but the pitch is too perfectly wrong in Hobo for this to be anything other than intentional yet at the same time doesn’t come across as showy or condescending.  More like a world class forgery.  The cinematography is carefully crafted, the limitations that would have been placed on the creativity of exploitation cinema are self imposed by Eisener yet you couldn’t imagine the film being shot any other way.  At the beginning it’s has the O.T.T pantomime proceedings of an early John Waters film mixed with the grit of The Violent Professionals before echoing, but not imitating, Coffy, The Executioner and even titles like Enemy Territory with a western feel ala Go Kill and Come Back. These are only ever feelings, from experience, they’re never actually referenced in the style of Quentin Tarantino as Eisener has more than enough violence and fun of his own making to relay.

This stylistic mantra is past on to the actors and present in every performance throughout the film.  Hauer is exceptional, beyond exceptional.  He has the sort of assured command of the screen that hasn’t been present in a lot of his supporting roles (Sin City, Batman Begins) but this is his film.  Every line and moment is bursting with conviction that will lead you to forget that he actually has a home to go to.  His moments of loss of coherence are perfect and hint at the early stages of Korsakov’s syndrome and adds so much more to the character than you could ever write in words.  His physicality is unquestionable but with limitations and the best performance this year that will be overlooked by those in charge of the awards organizations.  Dunsworth (Abby) gives an equally wonderful performance acting off the father figure of the hobo playing the skill level of her character within the genre perfectly.  Sensitive at times, sweet at others, hard edged and violent (like all the best exploitation ladies are) in others and all complimentary to the overall end game.  Smith and Bateman play off one another brilliantly, like semi sociopathic boy band Wham they overact the antagonist roles and are little versions of their on screen father The Drake (Downey) and ideal opposites of the hobo.  Some of the violent set pieces could lose their intensity or humour in the hands of less skilled actors but the trio juggle the need for laughs with blood and guts to the point were you will almost begin to wish you didn’t have to cheer for their demise.

There seems to be an increase of exploitation films over the past few years and there are even more on the horizon.  The difference between Hobo with a Shotgun and the others is like the difference between AC/DC and an AC/DC tribute band.  In Exploiting Exploitation I had discussed certain fears and reasons why the current crop of exploitation wannabes would never match the quality and spirit of the original movement.  It would appear that Hobo with a Shotgun is the exception that proves the rule.  The reason why Death Proof and Machete fell short of the exploitation standard is because they were aware of their cinematic techniques and how smart they were in replicating them.  Hobo with a Shotgun is smart enough to know not to go about showing off how smart it is.  Instead it bows down to the genre and asks that it is accepted into its ranks.  It is perhaps one of the most enjoyable and beautifully pre-dated films you will see this year if not this decade and is not only a fantastic exploitation film but is also a brilliantly entertaining film in its own right.





Rent and watch Hobo with a Shotgun before the cinematic release.

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