Monday, January 30, 2012

Hobo With A Shotgun

There are some movies which transcend normal ratings of 'good' or 'bad' in the same way that, say, the sugary sweet pop music of bands like Hanson and 1910 Fruitgum Company transcend such metrics. In the case of something like Hobo With A Shotgun, I think it transcends any kind of critical scores simply because it quite literally is-what-it-is: a movie about a hobo with a shotgun. The premise alone is enough to make you want to watch it, and if you do, you know what you're getting into.

A movie made because someone won a trailer contest for Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino's Grindhouse double-movie, Hobo With A Shotgun is an exploitation film through-and-through. I will give this movie genuine thinking man's/art film credit for the overly saturated Technicolor style and also for taking its sweet time to get the titular weapon into the titular character's hands, and all along both playing to and against type, as often bowing to cliches and tradition as it does upsetting them. There's a scene where the hobo wants to buy a lawnmower for $49.95 from a pawn shop, and we see a rack of shotguns on the wall behind him for the same price...but he doesn't end up buying either. Well, kind of.

This film's particular genius lies not in the dialogue, which in all fairness will offer a couple of in-joke gems for you and your friends who watch it with you ("Welcome to fuck town!" is my pick of the litter), but in how creative it is with its violence. At a certain point in films like Tokyo Gore Police and, I don't know, Tetsuo: The Iron Man, the violence becomes so over the top as if to be almost ballet-esque. Hobo offers up some gems, such as a scene where one evil dude plays 'Disco Inferno' while his even-more-evil brother uses a flamethrower to immolate a schoolbus from the inside, children and all. Cleverly, this image wraps back around when (spoiler!) said evil child-murderer gets his (spoiler!) package shot off by the titular hobo and presumably bleeds to death in a phone booth, the school bus representative of death and/or hell as it appears from nowhere to take him away.

There's also a part near the end where a chick stabs a dude with the broken off bone sticking out of her arm...yeah.

All that said, my friend Richard, who suggested we watch it, admitted later if he was watching it alone he would've given up 1/3 of the way through. I don't really know what that says about him or this movie. I said earlier that 'good' or 'bad' don't apply, and I think that's true. Hobo With A Shotgun is certainly an entertaining movie, and I doubt that anything you'll see, outside of Tarantino or Rodriguez's Grindhouse contributions, ends as seemingly abruptly and borderline-carelessly as this film. Imagine if Terminator or Aliens ended right after the big evil baddie was finally offed, with no epilogue, and you've got the right idea.

But damn if it wasn't entertaining, at least to me. Richard may've fallen asleep off and on during it, but:

1) he was in the process of moving that weekend and we were both pretty tired

2) he and I are both creaking up on 30 and thus becoming old men who fall asleep at 11, even on Fridays

3) he didn't enjoy it much, as I just got done saying, so perhaps for some people sleep is preferable to watching Rutger Hauer get stabbed by ice skates (did I mention this film is a Canadian production? and has a brief appearance by Ricky from Trailer Park Boys as well as some obvious accents?) or chew on glass to make money from a sadistic cameraman who I assume is a satirical reference to the deplorable but-I-bet-at-least-one-person-you-know-has-seen-them Bumfights videos.

I want to close by saying that this movie is as transformative for Rutger Hauer as any of his more critically respected roles. I would never have known it was the guy from Blade Runner if I hadn't accidentally confused him with Dolph Lundgren for the first 40 minutes and looked up the movie on Wikipedia to make sure I wasn't crazy. No, I wasn't crazy, just confused.

Actually, that might be a a better way to end this, and a good way to sum up my reaction to the movie: I wasn't crazy about it, but I was certainly confused. I more than a few times laughed out loud at the sheer spectacle and absurdity of it all, never knowing where it was going to go next. At least it was an entertaining kind of confusion, like when you first see Commando and can't decide if it's the cheesiest 80s action flick ever or the greatest. Well, can't it be both?

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