Hobo with a Shotgun
Directed by Jason Eisner
Adapted from the winner of Robert Rodriguez's Grindhouse trailers contest, Hobo with a Shotgun is the second feature, after Machete, based on the phony previews that split Rodriguez's and Tarantino's films in theaters. This one's a pathological valentine to movies, and a disgusted rebuke of non-cinematic showmanship and spectacle. Dressed like a retired mailman, Rutger Hauer stars as the title character, who alights a freight train one sunny, overexposed morning and enters Hopetown, renamed Scumtown on its welcome sign by a wit with a Sharpie. There, street fights, thieving, kidnapping, pedophilia, pimping and prostitution run rampant in broad daylight. What's to blame: failed social policy? Crumbling infrastructure and a lack of investment? Nope: a gangster straight out of Dick Tracy—"The Drake" (Brian Downey)—and his douchebully, Delorean-driving, Bret Easton Ellis-looking sons. "When life gives you razor blades," The Drake says in one scene, "you make a baseball bat covered in razor blades"—a weapon he then uses to eviscerate a man hitherto hung upside-down and treated like a piñata by a few topless ladies.
Hobo with a Shotgun is an homage to exploitation movies of the 70s and 80s, to crude horror and, in a way, Clint Eastwood. Director Jason Eisner, who also made the original trailer, apes such films' tones impeccably, evincing his video store-nerdom, shaped during adolescence, with everything from the opening-credits font and Morricone-pastiche theme song to the fog-shrouded alleys, primary-colored lighting, John Carpenter-like electroscore and extremely canted camera angles. Eisner has expressed a love of Sam Raimi and Peter Jackson's early work, and it shows through in the gory, wacky kills he devises, the hysterical acting style he encourages—the film's general Bad Taste.
The Hobo, reaching his breaking point for tolerance of corruption and debauchery, tries to take the town back "one shell at a time"; he's like Dirty Harry and The Man With No Name rolled into one. The knowingly over-the-top tone—the way characters use cocaine by hurling handfuls of powder onto their faces and then screaming—seems to send up the conservatism the movie preaches, the clarity between right and wrong that movies like The Expendables treat with deadly seriousness. "You can't solve all the world's problems with a shotgun," one character tells the hobo. But that's not to say Hobo with a Shotgun is totally tongue-in-cheek: among its bad guys are moviemakers and entertainers: a bumfight filmmaker—one of the first to get it after the hobo buys his pawnshop shotgun—and The Drake, who always refers to his spectacular, publicly performed murders as "his show." Eisner doesn't have much respect for these YouTube-style camcorderers or stage-bound showmen. His love is for feature films—for cruddy VHS, specifically, which would be the ideal format in which to watch this movie. Being thirteen years old again and in your best friend's basement wouldn't hurt, either.
Opens May 6