Although it will inevitably be lumped in with the films of the modern Grindhouse movement (Grindhouse, Machete), Hobo with a Shotgun doesn’t have the aesthetic style of the films it mimicks. Outside of its high concept, the film owes more to Grindhouse (or the Troma films) than the actual Grindhouse movement, and I worry that many who watch the film are going to underplay its flaws as intentional or even necessary. Grindhouse films weren’t made to be intentionally bad; that just happens when you have little money and unprofessional filmmakers. Disguising the flaws in the film’s acting, writing and direction under a Grindhouse aesthetic is could actually be seen as brilliant, and it’s possible that’s what Hobo with a Shotgun does.
This is a film that I find myself struggling with. It’s a film that I want to really like, but I feel like it’s trapped by its own conventions. On all accounts, Hobo is a success — it delivers exactly what you expect, brings some interesting kill scenes and concepts to a low-budget film. While, many of the expectations are met, I feel obvious flaws in a film should never be overlooked because of intention or circumstance.
The obvious question here is “should a movie called Hobo with a Shotgun really need the highest production values?” — and, really, that’s a fair question. The film’s schlock has its purpose, but I never find it too much to ask for a script which is inhabited by more than half-written and dull characters.
Set in a world ruled by crime and a vigilante who must learn to match its violence in order to restore order, its closest kin is actually Paul Verhoeven’s Robocop. Sadly, Hobo with a Shotgun doesn’t quite match its predecessor’s wit or social conscience. Although it is a fun ride, there is nothing beyond the surface of the film. This shouldn’t technically be a criticism, as I don’t believe the film intends to resemble anything striving for any sense of high art.
With all that said, it succeeds. Even with its obvious low budget, the gore effects are really well played — the damage is felt with every shotgun blast. The production design of the film is also near perfection. The color palate does much more to serve its homage than anything in the story or characters and it makes the film more visually interesting than most of its kind.
In a movie with no real depth, Rutger Hauer is able to bring some surprising sincerity to the titular role. And in a movie where the dialogue is mostly bad across the board, his crazy ass lines are delivered flawlessly and the crazy rantings fit the character. If there is any brilliance in the film, it’s in how it handles the hobo. Hauer feels completely invested in his character (something that can’t be said for the rest of the cast). Thankfully, the film doesn’t unnecessarily give him any believable wisdom that we might have been forced upon us in a different film. Through his demeanor and his philosophies we can see why he has become homeless and what homelessness has done to deteriorate his sense of reality.
Many of the film’s taglines and one-liners are going to make a crowd erupt with glee. The over-the-top violence and profanity will fill many midnight cinemas with undeniable energy — certainly the best way to view this film. But for me, the film is trapped by its conventions in a way that ultimately tempers my overall grade. Although a fun, audacious film, it isn’t any better or worse the many films it draws from. So, despite its inherent success, Hobo with a Shotgun doesn’t do anything more for me than anything from the Toxic Avenger series. Certainly an ‘A’ for effort, but its ceiling isn’t quite as high.
My Best of 2012 Playlist by Eric Garneau
After being inspired by some friends, for the past few years I’ve been really into documenting my musical exploration with year-end mixes. I realize this is not a particularly novel thing to do, but hey, who has original ideas any more? Anyway, this has gotten even easier to do thanks to new technology like Spotify. read more