The hype train is still barreling on in with this one. The last two weeks here at ScreenAnarchy has seen a nonstop barrage of reviews and Hobo related press material. You're either eating all this up with obsessive anticipation or simply getting sick and tired of it. How can any modern day ready made cult film live up to all of this?
Well, kiddies, I pre-gamed this one by spending a solid three hours downing over priced cocktails named after classic movies amongst a group of scensters who'd out hipster even Williamsburg hipsters in a kitschy atomic age outfitted bar that might as well been called Jack Rabbit Slims. By the time I shuffled my way over to the theater, I found a massive crowd waiting to get in. It was frigid cold outside. Luckily, I brought my magic flask to further warm my soul before the opening night gala screening of Jason Eisener's debut feature film. I've been looking forward to this for nearly two years now but I went in with a certain amount of hesitation. "What happens if it doesn't live up to my expectations? How can it live up to my expectations? I'm going to be hanging with the directors later tonight, am I going to be the one guy at ScreenAnarchy who gives their labor of love a shit review?"
I'm happy to report, Hobo with a Shotgun is a cornucopia of badassery and Ira Einhorn level craziness that's going to have most twitch readers squirming with pig in shit delight.
Eisener and co-writer/producers John Davies, and Rob Cotterill must have telepathically found a tunnel system running directly through the subconscious ids of genre fanboys (& girls) everywhere. They've drank the kool aide punched with an exorbitant amount of Jack Daniels, and they're driving a greyhound through those tunnels, loading up the empty seats with only the very best and often most offensive guilty pleasure joys to be found in exploitation cult cinema. Even better, it's apparent they have accidentally run over the likes of Zak Snyder and Robert Rodriguez along the way. Actually, they didn't simply run over them, they stopped the bus to laugh and piss on their bloodied roadkill corpses before moving on.
I won't waste your time summarizing the story. There's already enough reviews out there that are providing redundant recaps of what you probably already know. A hobo rides into Scumtown looking for work only to find a city overrun by the most hideous crime and violence imaginable. He saves a hooker with a heart of gold from being kidnapped and ends up becoming a punching bag for wacky gang members and corrupt cops. Now he's cleaning up the streets and serving justice one shell at a time. Going into any further detail will only spoil the inventive and often shocking fun to be had. Early on, a school bus full of children is torched by way of giant flame thrower and everyone is going to be talking about the epic awesomeness of two mysterious bounty hunters aptly named The Plague. Oh yes, I hope we git a prequel telling the history of The Plague.
Hobo with a Shotgun is what Machete was supposed to have been, pure, unadulterated sleaze entertainment that nostalgically plays tribute to an expired genre while creating something new in and of itself. I personally found Machete dull and repetitive. The action was clumsy and lacked energy, and nearly all of the performances and overall mise en cine played out with an air of laziness and indifference. What the fuck is the point of casting Robert Deniro and Steven Seagal as villains in an over the top exploitation film if they're barely even going to phone in their performances.
Hobo is an expertly lensed film with impressive cinematography, grade A stunt work, and a cartoonish color scheme that just pops. There's plenty of gut bustingly funny one liners that had the entire audience railing with laughter. "Machete don't text," may have earned a few chuckles, but Rutger Hauer growling " Excuse while I wipe this guy's asshole off my face," got a standing ovation.
The history behind Hobo's existence has already become the stuff of legend amongst pimply film students the world over. Does this really need recapping too? Eisener and team made a fake trailer as part of an internet contest held for Tarantino and Rodriguez's Grindhouse. Hobo won and played as an official part of the film theatrically with the Canadian release. It also became an instant internet meme that drew more excitement than Grindhouse itself. The popularity of the viral video lead to some fairly substantial financing and a whole lotta Canadian tax dollars, and thus Eisener was able to go shoot himself a feature film with Rutger motherfucking Hauer.
Indie filmmakers everywhere are now taking online contests a lot more seriously. But let's face it, this is a needle in the haystack. Not only did the original short capture lightning in a bottle that millions of other genre fans have been futilely chasing for years but the feature takes it so much further. I expect we'll be seeing a lot of cheap, shoddy, soulless imitations on the festival scene the next few years.
A lot of the film's success can be related directly to Hauer. Supposedly, he took the role only to piss off his agent. I often found myself wondering if Hauer really knew or understood what type of film he was acting in. Believe it or not, he gives a heart rendering performance. Amidst all of the arterial sprays and ridiculous gore he plays it all straight with a deadpan and deadly serious deposition that is jarringly at odds with nearly every single other fucking aspect of the film. But it also works beautifully. It's like dropping Laurence Olivier into a Troma production directed by Sam Raimi at the top of his game.Without the gravity lended up Hauer, the film may have failed. So yeah, the new kids from the Canadian block are also beating Lloyd Kaufman at his own game as well.
But I may be stacking up the hyperbole a bit too much. You can't climb a mountain without scraping your knees, and sometimes you may find yourself in a situation where you can't save your wife from falling to her death because you didn't tie her straps on tight enough. If there's anything wrong with Hobo with a Shotgun is that there's just too much of good thing to remain good all the way through.
The manic energy of the original short is carried through the entire running time of the 86 minute feature. The film ends when it needs to without wearing out its welcome, but there are times when the bombastic pacing becomes exhausting. There isn't enough down time to create an adequate level of anticipation for someone to actually savor all of the delicious madness. It's like a talented comedian not giving his audience time to breath between jokes thus losing a lot of great punchlines. It's a damn shame too because the few quieter moments really shine through. Without spoiling too much, there's been a lot of talk about the nature of bears amongst Hobo fans through out the entire fest.
Hobo with a Shotgun may be the smartest and most imaginative dumb movie around. It succeeds in being obscenely violent without being gross or mean spirited. It's damn good fun. You can see the love and passion that went into making this in every scene.
You may already know that Hobo will be available On Demand in the U.S. starting this Friday, but I strongly recommend waiting until it hits theater screens in May. This is a film best seen amongst a full house of rowdy film lovers.