Share |

DVD reviews

Book reviews
Music reviews

Culture reviews

Features & Interviews

Cult Films & TV
Books & Comics

Ephemera & Toys


Hate Mail

The Strange Things Boutique




DVD region 2. Momentum Pictures.

Hobo with a ShotgunThe much-anticipated Hobo with a Shotgun comes with a bucketful of expectations that, inevitably, it can’t fulfil – though some viewers do seem to be in a state of determined denial about its qualities. That said, others genuinely love it, and see it as a successful attempt to recreate the flavour of Seventies exploitation cinema – unlike earlier efforts like Grindhouse and Machete. Unfortunately, I think they are wrong.

The film has a simple plot. Nameless Hobo Rutger Hauer rides the rails into a town from hell, where crime lord Drake (Brian Downey) runs the show with his two sons, Slick (Gregory Smith) and Ivan (Nick Bateman). This is the sort of place where street executions, muggings, pimps abusing prostitutes and child molesting Santas are commonplace, and at first, the Hobo keeps his head down. But after rescuing hooker Abby (Molly Dunsworth) from an assault by Slick, he is beaten up by the corrupt police force, and changes his plans to buy a lawnmower (paid for with money from a Bumfights style video) and instead buys a shotgun, in order to start cleaning up the streets.

Leaving aside the arguments about why bigger budget films that self-consciously ape the style of movies from the past should be given any more credit than the amateur-hour recreations of George Romero’s oeuvre that have dismayed fans for years, this does seem to be another example of filmmakers who claim to be exploitation fans managing to get it entirely wrong again. While the film opens with the theme tune to Mark of the Devil playing over the credits (and proving that this piece of music will lend class to anything it accompanies), it quickly shows its true colours, taking its inspiration from the 1980s – exploitation’s lowest point, when the edgy cinema of the previous decade was replaced by disposable, vacuous and often quite reactionary video fodder*.

Some critics have suggested that the film deserves praise because Eisener is sincere in his love of exploitation movies – but I have no doubt that Tarantino and Rodriguez were equally sincere with their misfires. Eisener seems a nice enough guy, but this film suggests that, like bigoted Brits who cheered on Basil Fawlty as he abused German guests, he’s misunderstood what the best exploitation movies were about, instead taking them at face value as being nothing but violence, action and bad taste. Or maybe the films he loved were the ones that really were nothing but that. This is a movie for people who think Savage Streets and Class of 1984 are movie classics, and in attitude, if not style, Hobo is very much in the spirit of Troma – a company that moved from frat boy sex comedies to frat boy gore comedies without changing very much. The lip-smacking gore effects (designed to get idiots punching the air), the ridiculous characters and the awful synth music are all-too-authentic in their recreation of films that were crap the first time around. The fact that director Eisener admits to being influenced by the dreadful Salute to the Jugger (aka The Blood of Heroes) should be a warning. As for the much-praised villains The Plague… well, far from being some brilliantly innovative idea, they exactly what you’d expect from someone who grew up playing video games and watching Star Wars, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Transformers.

Hobo with a ShotgunAnd yet… I’m not going to condemn this out of hand. There are shining moments of brilliance here – the opening scenes are excellent, and the Street Trash ambience highly effective. Hauer is on top form – his worn down, slightly mad, thoroughly honest performance is excellent and he brings a real humanity and vulnerability to what could have easily been a one-dimensional character. Dunsworth too has a real warmth to her role, and their scenes together are quite touching. The film also looks better than any of the crappy movies that inspired it – no Troma film had this sense of style. In these CGI-laden days, it’s good to see mostly physical splatter effects – even if you suspect that the scenes they are used in are there just for shock value – and I certainly can’t fault the pacing, as the movie rarely pauses for breath.

I know there are plenty of people out there who grew up on low-end tat in the late 1980’s or 90’s, and it’s probable that this will speak to you more than me. A lot of you will love this, and don’t let me put you off – if you disagree with my take on those older movies, you’ll probably disagree with me about this too. I have to say that I really, really wanted this to be good – but after three viewings, I have to accept that it’s not the movie the excellent poster suggests it will be… which is probably the most authentic exploitation movie aspect of the whole affair.

I can’t fault the DVD contents – two commentaries (including one with bizarre interjections from original trailer Hobo David Brunt), a 45 minute ‘making of’ featurette, an ‘alternative’ (in fact deleted) ending and deleted scenes round up the package, though surprisingly, the original spoof trailer that started the whole affair is either missing or buried as an annoying Easter egg.

* And yes, I know there were great genre films made in the second half of that decade. But not many.





Share |