Homages to those crazy grindhouse films of the seventies, even when done well, usually don’t impress me. The exception to the rule is the Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino double feature, Grindhouse. But 2010′s Machete left me feeling a bit bored. What director Jason Eisner has done in Hobo With A Shotgun deserves to be taken notice of. Although I’m still unsure of whether that attention should be of a positive or negative nature.
Hobo With A Shotgun is the second fake trailer that accompanied the Rodriguez/Tarantino project that’s been made into a feature film. As would be expected, the story follows a hobo played by Rutger Hauer. The unnamed transient rode the rails into a Canadian town full of pure insanity. It’s run by two brothers who are real sadistic freaks. The two murder anyone they please in twisted ways rivaling the creativity of the Saw films, or Hostel. So our hobo, with the help of a hooker with a heart of gold, and of course, a shotgun, decide to serve up the town a steaming plate of justice.
Like all grindhouse films, the movie relies on shock value. So telling you too much would take away the fun and, well, the shock. The dialogue is intentionally bad, but at the same time, it’s quite quotable. And who a lot of fun. Hauer’s performance is pitch perfect. He knows the film is walking a fine line between a joke and satire, and he matches that intention with a fury.
While it’s dangerous territory to call something like this film artistic, I will say that such violent and objectionable subject matter would be utterly pointless were it not to have some sort of artistic merit. In the case of this film, there’s a creativity that matches the onscreen violence and depravity. And this, at least, makes you feel not so guilty when you’re laughing at Eisner’s antics on screen. Without that, you’d just have a film like The Woman.
Eisner’s camera work is as frenetic as Tony Scott’s Domino, offering a dizzying array of saturated colors and, at times, nauseatingly unsteady framing. While this borders on the distracting, it also shows Eisner’s understanding of grindhouse films, and how they tell their fucked up stories. The film runs mercifully short at eighty six minutes. Any longer and the audience may have lost its patience for the violence and the writing that includes lines like, “I’m gonna wash this blood off with your blood” and “They’re gonna make comic books out of my hate crimes.” There’s no reality in this movie, it’s escapism at its finest. That is, of course, if you’re messed up enough to enjoy something like this.
A fitting tribute to seventies films in the same vein backed by a great central performance by Hauer, makes this one an enjoyable watch.