Thursday, 29 September 2011
"I'm gonna sleep in your bloody carcasses tonight!" - Hobo with a Shotgun
Now Hobo with a Shotgun is the very definition of a Marmite film – you will either love it or hate it. I am very much in the former camp and hence this write up – just so I can put this film in context before you decide to go and watch it.
Of course this film will not be suited for everyone – it’s violent. And I mean really violent with lots of blood, gore and dismemberment - but we’ll get to that in a minute.
Story wise, the title pretty much says it all – the film follows the tale of a wandering Hobo who arrives in a town that happens to be overrun by brutal gangsters, petty criminals running amok, corrupt police and quick to mob civilians. After intervening in a confrontation, the Hobo is brutally punished. Instead of accepting his lesson of intimidation, the Hobo decides enough is enough and goes on a vigilante killing spree with a shotgun, determined to clean up the town at all costs.
Now at face value it doesn't seem all that interesting - that's why it took me by surprise so much when I watched it for the first time. I was literally blown away. Firstly the violence – the portrayal is not only very bloody but very brutal – just a few examples include a baseball bat lined with razorblades, a gun pointed point blank at a baby and let’s not forget a certain scene involving a bus (one of the more controversial scenes in the film).
Having said that, this film is deliberately made in the Grindhouse style (a la Machete, Death Proof and Planet Terror) and so the violence, although very much over the top, is often schlocky and slightly comic in its delivery (think it terms of Ichi the Killer or Braindead). In fact, the story and characters are decidedly comic book in their presentation, especially the villains who are the nastiest but also most strangely appealing villains I have seen in films for a long time. I mean these guys haven’t even heard of a moral compass. They just don't care.
…Which fits in nicely with the vibe of 80s excess that permeates the film. The film is awash with various fashions, neon stylings and music of the 80s and filmed largely with a handheld camerawork and a gritty filter; and is a clear homage to Troma flicks such as The Toxic Avenger.
A more modern day comparison to the tone of the film would be the current wave of Japanese splatter films such as The Machine Girl and Tokyo Gore Police, so if you have seen and enjoyed those films then this one is highly recommended.
Similar to Machete, this film originally started its life as a fake trailer for the Death Proof/Planet Terror double bill Grindhouse – but where it differs from Machete is that it manages to expand upon and transcend the trailer instead of merely making a 90min version of it. As well as the aforementioned 80s styling’s being added there is one big added factor that I have yet to discuss.
He goes by the name of Rutger Hauer.
Most noted for his superb roles in films such The Hitcher and Blade Runner, Rutger playing the part of the Hobo grounds the film with a downplayed performance that lends the character gravitas but also anchors the film so it doesn't fly off too far into absurdity. Rutger is a force to be reckoned with and shows real heart in a film that is filled with characters that often gleefully show that they have none. I mean this guy can expound acres of his character without even saying a word – he’s that good! Moreover, the father daughter relationship between the Hobo and Abby (the requisite prostitute with a heart of gold) provides a delicate counterpoint to the rest of the film’s carnage, which makes it all matter. Put simply, the film just would not work as well without Rutger as the Hobo.
If you want a quick comparison, check out the original fake Grindhouse trailer here with the actual feature film trailer here.
So all in all a recommended film – and I haven’t even mentioned THE PLAGUE yet. Yes, when THE PLAGUE (so awesome they deserve capital letters all the time) turn up a good way into the film, the whole thing steps up a notch. I wont ruin it for you but these guys are awesome. Also watch out for cameos by Ricky from Trailer Park Boys and David Brunt who played the Hobo in the original fake trailer.
So if you don’t mind a bit of bloody violence in your films then this is one to watch. Despite some rough edges, uneven acting across the cast and the limited budget occasionally showing through, for me personally this film was shocking and refreshing in equal measure as there is not much else like it currently out there. Coupled with the 80s music and aesthetic that I love (that Bricklin!), makes Hobo with a Shotgun a sure-fire contender for placing in my top ten films of the year.
29 Sep 2011