Canadian film month continues on An Online Universe with this guest review of the outrageous Hobo with a Shotgun, kindly written by Ben Buckingham.
A lifelong addict of the bizarre and intense, Ben is the perfect person to review this film! As a founding father of CineCult303 he has inflicted mental torture upon many and consistently made the world a better place. He is currently writing a thesis on the cultural system of cannibalism in post-modern horror and working on his cooking skills.
Check out Ben’s thoughts on Hobo with a Shotgun after the jump.
Hobo with a Shotgun opens with a classical seventies credit sequence: a bold, outdated font competes with vibrant hyper-colour-saturation, setting the scene for a film strangely out of time. The intense colour palette brings to mind the technicolour entry into Oz, with Rutger Hauer as our worn-down, dirty Dorothy riding the rails instead of the wind. It is apparent he is a hard man, but not of the sleek uber-mensch variety he played in his youth. This is a man weathered by storms. As he sits smiling, enjoying this spring day and feeling hopeful for a new future in a new town, we know not what tornado uprooted him and placed him on his path. This is not the origin of a superhero. This is the last stop on the road to hell; one last chance to stand up. Hobo with a Shotgun is the story of man as mad as hell and who will not take it any more.
This is Hopetown, so says the sign, or at least it used to before the rust and crime ate up all the hope. It is now better known as Scumtown, a burning wreck of a city populated by parasitic filth who use the ‘normal’ folk as toys in their sicko games. Crime is not only rampant, it is spectacle: Hobos beating each other to death for $10; decapitation roadgames and dodgem cars for friends and family alike. It is the archetypal city in decline, as seen a hundred times in assorted post-apocalyptic nightmares from the eighties. This is civilisation in decline, and it could be anywhere, anywhen. It never appears to rain in Scumtown (other than the occasional rain of blood), as if its storms have subsumed into the dark soul of its vicious patriarch, The Drake (Brian Downey), and his two spoilt, psychopathic sons, Ivan (Nick Bateman) and Slick (Gregory Smith). The Drake is a classic loud-mouth villain, perfectly sadistic and a little underwhelming. He has to be, after all, he always makes his minions do his dirty work. Ivan and Slick are stand-outs, a truly deranged duo consistently enjoying their own atrocious behaviour and a wicked sense of humour that clearly runs in the family. They are the villainous stars of the show, bringing an unrivalled energy to their anarchy that cannot be denied. Rutger Hauer, as the nameless Hobo, is the magnetic centre of the film. Here is a man who has lived and loved, now left with nothing but hope and a sock full of quarters. Hauer is essential, genius casting, as he brings a gravitas to the film which holds all the mania together and gives it an emotional weight and depth that it otherwise may have lacked. This is what happened to the heroes of the eighties, oh that we wish it weren’t true.
Hobo with a Shotgun belongs to the resurgence of grindhouse cinema, recreating the genres, style and degradation of classic seventies and eighties exploitation. It originated with a fake trailer competition for Tarantino and Rodriguez’s Grindhouse, and was then upgraded to feature-length with a much larger budget and the towering presence of Rutger Hauer. It belongs to a fine history of Canadian exploitation, or Canuxploitation [http://www.canuxploitation.com/], a history which still languishes undiscovered by the majority. There is something about the Canadian cinematic sensibility when it goes postal; a deep-down trauma hound intensity that is rarely matched. It thus makes perfect sense that, unlike many post-grindhouse films, Hobo With A Shotgun isn’t afraid to shake things up, or get truly down and dirty. It is a vicious, angry film. Taking its cue from the grimiest of eighties New York social nightmare cinema, Hobo embraces the turbulence of the 21st century and suggests that nothing has changed. The war on the streets is still going on, except now corruption has spread through every facet of the city and the only enemy is anyone who would stop the fun.
Despite belonging to a sub-genre that idolises the cinema of the past, Hobo with a Shotgun does not wallow in nostalgia. It emulates the deranged, ‘anything goes’, totally un-P.C. possibilities of grindhouse cinema, yet invigorates its shop-worn narrative with a contemporary rage against injustice that echoes the darkest nightmares of the Occupy movement. Hobo with a Shotgun is an extremely nasty film, brutal and unwavering in its violence and, while it is often cartoonish – as in the evil paedo-Santa – it has a strange honesty, refusing to sugar-oat a damned thing. The intensity of the violence is a response to the highest level of moral decay, pure ‘eye for an eye’ retribution. Like Meursault, in Camus’ The Outsider, the inhabitants of Scumtown have come to a dead-end with nowhere left to go, and we made it for ourselves. The inhabitants of this world are living out a sick, pop-culture driven fantasy of the maniac 1%. One of the most intriguing characters is The Plague, an assassin who has drowned themselves so fully in the world of videogames as to become a post-human figure around whom reality breaks apart even further. He is a deadly warning of the collision between corruption, technology, and pop-culture.
Rage flows from almost every shot in the film. At first it is impotent, yet builds continuously and compulsively to an explosive outpouring, not only of the downtrodden but of those who still care and demand that the world is better. This is the 99% pushed too far into the 1%’s toilet. The decisions its characters make have meaning and significance, and most of all they have repercussions. In such a world, if you are going to rock the boat, you better be prepared to sink it.
What really makes the film work is its attention to detail. This is not a one-joke film, unlike the vast majority of post-grindhouse cinema. Eisner has created a world that feels real, lived-in, filled with a million little details and moments that speak to a strange kind of reality. There are many references to film history, yet it never lives nor dies by them. It is beautifully constructed, with such an imagination for not only violence but for the everyday nuances of characterisation and general weirdness. Every moment has been thought through, crafted for maximum entertainment or unpleasantness, or both. Anarchic to precision, Hobo with a Shotgun is like exploitation pinball, hyperactive and out of control, but with one goal always in mind. You are the pinball. Prepare to be slammed.
By Ben Buckingham
Thanks Ben for your fantastic review. Be sure to check out more of Ben’s writing at Australian Film Review
Director: Jason Eisener
Writer(s): John Davies, Jason Eisener, Rob Cotterill
Starring: Rutger Hauer, Pasha Ebrahimi, Robb Wells
Runtime: 86 minutes