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Hobo With a Shotgun

Hobo shotgun

No, it's not from 30 years ago! It's fresh and rotten today!

dir: Jason Eisener
We see a lot of films that were filmed in Canada. It’s cheaper for nearly every single goddamn American tv series and movie to be filmed there. We don’t see that many Canadian films, though. They’re rare. Rare as teeth in Saskatoon.

What are even rarer are Canadian films from Halifax, Nova Scotia. When was the last time you heard of a flick filmed in Halifax or Dartmouth?

Never, that’s when. And from the looks of this film, there’s a very good reason for it.

At first I thought the setting of the flick was some post-apocalyptic wasteland. Then I realised that that’s what Halifax must look like all the time.

In the flick it’s called Hope Town, but, in a stunning example of irony, there’s barely any hope at all for the good citizens of Hope Town. Ruled as they are by a strange man who calls himself The Drake who seems not to do much apart from kill people randomly in the streets, their town has degenerated into an ugly cesspool. Or, alternatively, it is raising itself up to the status of an ugly cesspool.

He has two annoying sons called Slick and Ivan, actors so bad I refuse to look their names up, who yell every line of dialogue they have, and who also kill random people in the street. The police, for reasons never really explained, not only turn a blind eye to the excesses of these morons, they actively help them in their endeavours, because, I guess, they’re deranged morons as well.

One of the sons kills a busload of children with a flamethrower, which, somehow, is used as a pretext to inspire the citizens of Hope Town to rise up and kill the homeless in their fair city.

Does it sound far-fetched to you? It’s supposed to, since it’s called Hobo with a Shotgun, and stars Rutger Hauer as the Hobo with said shotgun.

He stumbles into town, bleary eyed on hobo wine, not wanting anything more than a lawnmower. It’s not a lot to ask, is it, even in Halifax? I mean, sure, there doesn’t seem to be a single blade of grass in the entire blasted landscape, but we’re meant to understand the Hobo’s yearning for a 1950s picket fence and normalcy, something he clearly has never had. Or had, and then lost when he hit the road.

He sees some people being killed, and does nothing, and sees some other people being mutilated and tormented by Ivan and Slick, or by a strange movie producer who pays bums to fight each other for money, and does nothing. But when he sees the truest rare avis, that rarest of rare birds, a young hooker with a heart of gold called Abby (Molly Dunsworth) being harassed and threatened with murder, torture and financial insolvency, he decides to step up and get involved.

It would be a waste of time and energy to take this flick seriously. It’s deliberately trying to look like an ultraviolent flick from the 1970s (so I guess it’s a ‘loving’ parody or homage), but, you know what? I’m starting to get sick of this bullshit. If want to watch violent 70s flicks with terrible production values and horrible acting, I’ll watch one of those.

There’s something about this flick that doesn’t click with me, some reason why I can’t cut it the same amount of slack that I allowed for flicks I’ve seen/endured recently like Machete, Drive Angry or Black Dynamite.

Like Machete, Hobo with a Shotgun started life as a fake trailer during the noble failure that was Grindhouse: the Tarantino/Rodriguez/Miramax collaboration/tribute to ultraviolent sleazy flicks from the 70s. Like Machete, it’s a one-note joke taken a bit too far.

Perhaps I didn’t get into it because it’s so violent, or because it’s so bleak and humourless. It’s less a parody of bad movies than an actual bad movie, recalling other, earlier bad movies, but one made deliberately so, because or despite its limitations (?)

Then it comes down to the argument as to whether it’s a bad movie, or a ‘bad’ movie, something which was planned as kitsch or camp from the get-go, not in retrospect, and as such is viewed differently?

And whether it fucking well matters.

I ultimately don’t think it does. The violence seems pitched at a higher, crazier level that I think was aiming at laughs, as in, multiple scenes of people’s hands and limbs and heads practically exploding, with blood spraying every which way at the slightest papercut. The gore and gratuitousness of the violence also is too over-the-top to be taken seriously, and is meant to be ‘funny’, I guess, but after a while I did find it unsettling.

Still, whenever someone stabbed someone with the cut-off remnants of their arm bones, or when a crotch explodes from the force of some shotgun shells, or when someone tries to cut someone’s head off with a wood saw, well, mostly it reminds me of Troma flicks from an age ago; flicks which looked crap, were crappily acted and were made on the smell of an oily piece of used celluloid by people who just didn’t know any better.

It’s not like I was searching for meaning, or need meaning in a flick to see it as worth my while. This is, more than anything, a very strange horror / action flick where only the worst of humanity is depicted, and as such I’d have to be a fuckwit of the highest order to think it’d be anything else with a title like the one it has.

I just expected more from the peoples of Canada, Nova Scotia and Halifax, especially. Most of the citizens of that wretched town seem to be standing, staring with mouths agape as this awesome/awful production goes through its paces. I can’t really fault them in their terrible acting, because it seems like the director was yelling at people to be more terrible with each subsequent take, as if they were under-acting extras in a Godzilla movie.

I liked Molly Dunsworth as the only female in the flick, who, covered in a great deal of blood, gives a great chastising speech to a bunch of regular citizens who are embarking on a homeless killing rampage. She has one of the funnier “suiting up” montage scenes that I’ve seen recently, which I’m pretty sure was ripped off from Peter Jackson’s Brain Dead. Much of the time she’s acting like someone who’s an actor who’s studied acting, which is more than I can really say about anyone else in the flick, most of whom seem to be competing in a secret competition to see who can be the Most Annoying Person in Halifax.

If she ever gets out of Halifax, she might have a career ahead of her.

Rutger Hauer, though, Rutger Fucking Hauer, well, he’s The Man. He’s been The Man for a very long time. He’s crazy and less-than-stellar in this role, in fact, to conflate the character with the actor, you almost feel like he took the role out of desperation and was paid in cans of beer. Not full cans, either.

It’s impossible for me not to like him, though. He’s never been a great actor, but in the roles that have been great, he’s been really really great. He’s great as Roy Batty in Blade Runner. He’s great as the disabled Viet Nam vet swordfighter in Blind Fury. He’s great as a German terrorist in Nighthawks. And he’s done some other stuff over the last thirty years as well. This won’t really be remembered for anything positive, as a swansong, as a valediction, as a summation of the man’s art and career. It’s really more like someone who was wonderful way back when ending up doing kid's parties as a soiled clown just to make ends meet.

I don’t blame him for this movie not entirely hitting the mark. I blame Canadians, specifically and in general. You know who you are.

5 times no-one should really have to choose between a shotgun and a lawnmower out of 10

“And if you're successful, you'll make money selling junk to crackheads. And don't think twice about killing someone's wife, because you won't even know it's wrong in the first place. Maybe... you'll end up like me. A hobo with a shotgun.” – way to work the title into the dialogue, champ – Hobo With a Shotgun.