Thursday, December 22, 2011

Hobo With a Shotgun

Imagine a world ruled entirely by chaos. A world where pedophiles, dressed in Santa suits, openly prey on young children; where deranged crime lords snort fistfuls of cocaine and slaughter and/or maim at will and where justice is meted out by a rambling shambling hobo armed with poor hygiene, a shotgun and, apparently, unlimited ammunition. If you can picture that, then perhaps you understand a fraction of this movie's madness. Hobo With a Shotgun quickly finds your tolerance level for senseless violence and nauseating gore and spends the rest of its runtime gleefully crossing that line over and over and over again.

In 2007, Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez came together to create the three hour, double feature Grindhouse. Though the movies themselves was at best uninspired and at worst flat out-dull (I'm looking at you Death Proof), the false trailers which bridged the two features were easily the highlights of the film. Robert Rodriguez went on to make a film of Machete, starring the pock-marked grimace of Danny Trejo. While he was more successful there in recalling the gloriously OTT (over the top) tradition of 1970s grindhouse films, after a while it still felt like nothing more than a tired retread.

Enter Hobo With a Shotgun, the cellulite equivalent of a kick in the mouth. Within the first 10 minutes, as the hobo first wanders into town, we witness a man having his head ripped off by a car, after which a stripper revels gloriously in his still spouting blood. We see two men beating each other to within an inch of their lives, all at the behest of a man with a movie camera, who cheers them on with promises of payment. To continue to describe the depraved depths this film plumbs would spoil its one asset... the spectacle, but it suffices to say that this is merely the tip of the iceberg. Be warned, this film is not for the faint of heart or pure of spirit.

Rutger Hauer: The very picture of mental health

Rutger Hauer's performance as the titular hobo is the center of this energetic, gory production and the success of the project largely rests on his bedraggled shoulders. As a testament to his talents as an actor, he is mostly successful. Hauer deftly avoids taking his role as the shotgun toting, change grubbing hobo too seriously while also refraining from succumbing to the hammy madness of the many talentless actors who surround him (or, if they're able to act, they're certainly not trying to here). When the movie takes a rare pause for breath at a maternity ward, Hauer imbues a monologue he delivers to a screeching horde of babies with real pathos. You may not know where this hobo came from, or how he came to this end, but at that moment the tragedy of his character is quite palpable... becoming a "hobo with a shotgun" was the only option left open to him when faced with the grave sickness of the world he inhabits.  He also tackles the corniest lines with utmost conviction, but understands this movie for what it is: a vehicle for delivering the audience from one blood-soaked set piece to another. As such, he never lets his performance take center stage from these scenes, which are the undeniable star of the show.

And who to thank for the effectiveness of this senseless carnage but the director, Jason Eisener? Well aware of the simple, blood-soaked needs of the grindhouse genre, Eisener's camera is as frenetic and chaotic as the movie itself. The colors of this movie are lustrous and overbearing, but without ever becoming cartoonish à la the blood fountains of Kill Bill. Not that the movie is realistic in any way--some characters persevere through injuries which should have killed them based on the shock alone--but each scene manages to unsettle the viewer even further. Rather than washing over us like so much lurid poetry, every act of violence bludgeons the audience into a stunned silence, or forces uncomfortable laughter. Whether that's a good or bad thing I suppose depends on the proclivities, and perversity, of the viewer. One thing is for certain, watching Hobo is like taking a car-ride to hell... and we're all riding shotgun.

Gleenneen16's rating: **1/2/*****

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