Thursday, April 14, 2011

"Hobo with a Shotgun" not much fun

Hobo with a Shotgun (2011)
86 min., not rated.
Grade: C -

We probably could've done without "Hobo with a Shotgun," considering it's the expansion of a fake trailer for a grimy, scratchy exploitation B-movie and not a very good one. This down-and-dirty homage is gratuitous, sleazy, and ridiculously bloody, just as it should be, in keeping with the grindhouse model of trash cinema. But Canadian director-editor Jason Eisener and screenwriter John Davies, who made their winning trailer in a 2007 contest for Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino's "Grindhouse," would probably take it as a compliment to say their obnoxious brainchild is a Troma imitation. Getting right down to it with its straightforward title, "Hobo with a Shotgun" is nothing more than an amusing premise. It's basically "Taxi Driver" with balls-to-the-wall ultraviolence and untamed gore.

Cult figure Rutger Hauer plays it completely straight and to the hilt as a craggy-faced, rail-riding homeless man that goes vigilante. And who wouldn't? His ironically named Hope Town is crime-ridden, scum-populated, and apocalyptic with punks, psychopaths, snuff filmmakers, a pedophillic Santa Claus, and the like. So, wanting more than ever to have $49.99 to buy a new lawnmower, he steals a shotgun instead and delivers justice one shell at a time. Also, the hobo with a shotgun protects a prostitute with a heart of gold named Abby, played by newcomer Molly Dunsworth who sure can scream. 

With ambitions to be the be-all, end-all of grindhouse movies, "Hobo with a Shotgun" forgets to be any fun. It's a grim and bleak killjoy, and there is a lot of repetitive nihilism, debauchery, and agony on display, but none of it done with wit or a wink. For instance, leaving a sour taste in the mouth are scenes in which a school bus of children is roasted with a flamethrower and a sewer drain beheading ending with a half-naked girl getting a blood-geyser shower. And the overacting is broadly outsized and gung-ho, especially Brian Downey's foaming-at-the-mouth turn as The Drake, a crime empire sleazeball, and his psycho sons Slick (Gregory Smith) and Ivan (Nick Bateman, doing a Seann William Scott impression). Shot in vividly oversaturated Technicolor, each scene has a garish, kaleidoscopic filter where the flesh tones are orange and the blood redder than red. The filmmakers recall the Rob Zombie school of filmmaking, throwing enough mud at the wall in hopes that some of it will stick, whereas it could've used the same gleeful cleverness as Tarantino's "Death Proof," and both Rodriguez's "Planet Terror" and "Machete." In fact, watch those instead. 

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