Newest Review: ... backwater idyll - although first he's got to clean up this town. With a shotgun. This is very much a homage to the halcyon days of exp... more
The Badassest Hobo
Hobo with a Shotgun (Blu-ray)
Member Name: Puggers
Hobo with a Shotgun (Blu-ray)
Advantages: Intermittently fun - a stylish tribute to video nasties ...
Disadvantages: ... but mostly just a bleak gore-fest with minimal humour
As a gory and gruesome throwback to sleazy exploitation films, Hobo with a Shotgun is very much a love-it-or-hate-it affair - except to say that it's like Marmite isn't enough. It's more like being waterboarded with Marmite; aside from a niche who get down with this kind of thing, the majority of people are going to be pretty appalled by this film.
I've got a fairly high threshold for questionable-taste movies. I sat through The Human Centipede, I loved The Skin I Live In and I admired - if not exactly enjoyed - Irreversible. Nonetheless, while there are fun moments here, this didn't do it for me.
With a title like Hobo with a Shotgun, there's not a lot left to say about the plot - that's about as far as it goes. Rutger Hauer's Hobo arrives at Scum Town looking for a new start in life (although with a name like that, you'd think he might get back on the train). He dreams of starting up a lawn-mowing business in some backwater idyll - although first he's got to clean up this town. With a shotgun.
This is very much a homage to the halcyon days of exploitation films, and in this sense, HWAS hits the mark - from the over the top violence to the wanton bloodshed, the hackneyed dialogue and low-budget visual style, this is a dark sensory overload with tongue wedged firmly in cheek.
This said, the film managed to lose me somewhere between the school bus inferno, the lawnmower de-limbing and the glass-munching. After a while, the sense of black humour disappears, and the film becomes a bit of a grim exercise in trying too hard to shock. There's potential for a lot of bloody fun in this film, but it's only the first part that's effectively realised.
HWAS came from the same origins as Machete - another silly exploitation flick that manages to be everything this one should have aspired to. Both were spoof trailers attached to the Robert Rodriguez/Quentin Tarantino double feature Grindhouse - yet while Machete (starring a brilliant Danny Trejo and boasting a string of impressive cameos) became even better in the transition from absurd trailer to feature-length film, Hobo with a Shotgun goes the other way.
Machete features a lot of the same motifs - an aging outcast pitched into battle against a host of shady underworld characters with friends in high places, an attractive sidekick who implausibly decides to ally herself with the protagonist, ludicrous violence and a knowing sense of self-deprecation. The difference is in the execution. Machete's characters are at least in some way likeable; even the villains are charismatic - but in HWAS, no-one is particularly sympathetic, and you end up rooting for the Hobo more or less by default. It's difficult to care about anyone's fate, and even in such a palpably silly niche of films, this matters.
A sister film to Machete only really in origin, HWAS is pretty absent of well-known actors - Rutger Hauer is a convincing enough Hobo, although he has little to do except be dirty and growl at people. And munch on glass. Why Molly Dunsworth's Abby decides Team Hobo is the winning place to be isn't really clear, but she's a moderately interesting character. Otherwise, the cast are just a stream of faceless grunts who contribute little of note.
Perhaps I'm missing the point - but I don't think so. I get that it's at once a tribute and a pastiche of the video nasty genre, and as such, slick, high-quality film-making isn't what this is aiming for. Nonetheless, you've got to give people a reason to watch, or you're only appealing to a real niche of exploitation-movie fans. There's not a lot here for anyone else.
There's not much to shout about when it comes to the Blu-Ray release. Although shot in a crummy, low-budget style, there's plenty of colour and action in the film, and this comes through nicely - but on the whole, you're better off with the standard DVD version, especially as there's not likely to be a second viewing in the offing.
Summary: Not a patch on Machete