Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A bloody fistful of shells: HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN

HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN delivers what it promises and it's the first Canadian film in years that is soaked in grimy, visercal exploitation. It harkens back to the years of the tax shelter boom in Canada in the 70s and 80s in which sleazy B-movies (many good, many bad) received government tax breaks and funding. But this movie is unusual in that's shot in the Maritimes (Halifax and Dartmouth, N.S.) and has a venerable Danish character actor in the lead, the one and only Rutger Hauer (BLADE RUNNER).

Hauer is a homeless man who just steps off the rails and enters the town of Hope but quickly discovers that the town's name is a major misnomer. Hope is a cesspool of vile, immoral and anarchic violence and destruction. It's ruled over by a merciless dictator named Drake and his two equally evil and reprehensible brat sons who take great joy in everything from intimidating the town whores to incinerating a bus load of school kids.

The titular hobo grabs a shotgun from the local pawn shop and goes to work as a vigilante, while becoming a ally to a good hearted prostitute (Molly Dunsworth) who is smarter, tougher and more resourceful than she looks. Blood is shed (or to be accurate, sprayed) bones are broken, limbs are severed and every crafty and shocking way a person can be killed is on display in all it's gory glory, though never for a second is anything remotely believable (nor is it intended to be). Director Jason Eisener originally shot HOBO as a fake trailer in a contest inspired by the release of Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriquez's GRINDHOUSE. It's popularity resulted in this feature version, which has the spirit of a grindhouse film mixed with the over the top cruel black humour of a Troma movie.

Hauer brings much more pathos and baggage to the character than you'd expect. Eisener is skilled and creative behind the camera, never taking any prisoners with his warts and all approach that earns it's very hard R rating, which in Canada is similar to the U.S' NC-17. The cinematography and production design are inspired and first rate, with sharp neon colours to accentuate the ultra seediness of what the film offers. The music is evocative of John Carpenter's classic synth scores from his films like ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13.

There's even a hint of DEATH WISH 3 in this production as a poor urban setting is transformed into a chaotic slice of hell in which average citizens are constantly abused or killed by punks. You could even be reminded of another film about ultra violent punks: CLASS OF 1984, although compared to this, that had far more restraint, even though it didn't seem that way at the time. I don't think for a second that HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN will seem more restrained as it ages, but then again, who would expect or wish that?

**Footnote: Notice the bouncy 80s pop song during the end credits. Remember what animated TV show that was from? What a strange choice, eh?

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