SXSW FILM 2011
By Don Simpson | May 6, 2011
Director: Jason Eisener
Writers: Jason Eisener, John Davies, Rob Cotterill
Starring: Rutger Hauer, Gregory Smith, Molly Dunsworth, Brian Downey, Nick Bateman
I really did not want to pile onto the “I hate Hobo with a Shotgun” bandwagon, especially since Dave Campbell (Smells Like Screen Spirit’s Editor-in-Chief) and I seem to be the only ones riding on it. (In case you missed it, here is Dave’s review of Hobo with a Shotgun.) I typically do not read reviews of films before I write my own, but in this instance I read everything that has been published (to date) on IMDB.com and Rotten Tomatoes; and, I have to admit, I really do not understand why so many people are raving about it. And that, my friends, is the reason I want to explain why I hopped on this god-forsaken bandwagon in the first place…
Hopping off a train — because that is where all hobos seem to come from — the nameless Hobo (Rutger Hauer) finds himself in the ironically named Hope Town (the adopted moniker of “Scum Town” seems more appropriate). Within minutes, the Hobo witnesses the über-violent antics of the cartoonish mob boss, The Drake (Brian Downey), who yanks off people’s heads, leaving their decapitated body dangling inside a manhole of a public street, all at the frightful bemusement of a public audience…or maybe they are merely waiting for some scantily clad women to bathe in the blood? (They do not have to wait very long for that to happen.)
The Hobo also befriends a street smart young prostitute, Abby (Molly Dunsworth), who he likes to believe is a [chaste] school teacher. The Hobo mutters some nonsensical diatribes about bears and eventually announces his intentions of doling out justice for sake of the local townspeople. Hurray! The Hobo arms himself with his titular weapon — a shotgun purchased at a local pawn shop — and sets his sights on The Drake and The Drake’s two evil sons, Ivan (Nick Bateman) and Slick (Gregory Smith), and The Plague. By this point, what little plot there was in the first act has dissolved into some sort of nonsensical violent lunacy…
In the film’s one moment of metaphoric thoughtfulness, a lawnmower is revealed as a symbol of suburban domestic tranquility for the Hobo, but once push comes to shove that fairytale is promptly exchanged for the shotgun. Otherwise, Hobo with a Shotgun is gratuiously avoids any mental stimulation.
So far I have not had many favorable things to say about Hobo with a Shotgun, yet I still give writer-director Jason Eisener’s film a 3 out of 10. Well, the three points are solely for Hauer’s amazing embodiment of his character, the Hobo. The casting of Hauer in this role was truly an inspired (yet fleeting) moment of genius. As for the supporting characters, Eisner should have just set up a bunch of cardboard cut-outs of over-used cinematic stereotypes and the effect would have been exactly the same. To be honest, I do not discredit the actors — my problem with the supporting characters rests in the shoddily contrived dialogue and utter lack of character development.
Okay, so this is supposed to be an homage to the Grindhouse genre, right? Well, I obviously have a different opinion of what Grindhouse means. Admittedly, I am not a Grindhouse scholar, but I have seen my fair share of Grindhouse films. Sure, Grindhouse films were notoriously made on the cheap (and I admit that Karim Hussain’s high-contrast and grainy cinematography is somewhat in line with the Grindhouse low-budget aesthetic), but some Grindhouse films are very well written and possess overt political and/or social messages (I did not like Machete, but the writing and politics are much more in line with my perspective of what the Grindhouse genre was about). Again, I am not trying to make a gross generalization about Grindhouse films; I am merely attempting to explain what types of Grindhouse films I enjoy. If you like Grindhouse films that are filled with mindless dialogue and senseless violence, then maybe Hobo with a Shotgun is for you. We obviously have different tastes in films, and let us just leave it at that.