It’s been brought to my attention that I’ve been going off on Canada a lot lately, which is odd since some of my favorite Twitter friends happen to live up in Canada. Unfortunately, so does my one twitter enemy. I’m not going to give out his name (though I call him Monsieur Petit Pénis) or go in to all the gory details but oh my God, I hate him so much it’s not even funny. Seriously. Hate him. Forever and ever.
But anyway, just in case I have been tarring an entire nation based on one freaking lewser, I want to take some time to acknowledge the greatest thing to come out of Canada since Ryan Gosling, Hobo With A Shotgun.
Rutger Hauer plays the title character and hero of this nicely demented little film. When we first meet Hobo, he doesn’t have a shotgun. He’s just a vagabond, a proverbial man with no name who finds himself in the most run-down slum of a town ever. Hope Town appears to be located in one of the lesser known rings of Hell and basically seems to consist almost exclusively of burned-out storefronts, trash-strewn alleys, and seedy amusement parks. Seriously, the New York City of Taxi Driver hasn’t got a thing on Hope Town.
As soon as the Hobo arrives, the first thing he witnesses is the town’s local crime boss, the Drake (Brian Downey), decapitating a man in broad daylight while the citizens of the town apathetically watch. The Drake looks a lot like Peter Popoff (a preacher who comes on TV around 2 in the morning around these parts; he sells magic holy water) and he has two equally sadistic sons, Slick (Gregory Smith, who looks like Tom Cruise on extasy) and the idiotic Ivan (Nick Bateman). It soon becomes obvious that the Drake and his sons control the town because nobody has ever previously considered grabbing a shotgun and gunning them down. Nobody until the Hobo that is.
Originally, of course, the Hobo had different plans. He was attempting to raise the money necessary to buy a used lawn mower sitting in the local pawn shop, the idea being that he could use that mower to start a lawn care business. (The joke here, of course, is that nobody in Hope City appears to have a lawn. Seriously, they should have called it Cement City.) However, right when the Hobo is preparing to buy the lawn mower, the pawn shop is held up by two thugs. Luckily, along with the lawn mower, there’s also a shotgun — which happens to cost the exact same amount as the lawn mower — in the sales window. The Hobo purchases the shotgun and soon, with the help of a sympathetic prostitute named Abby (Molly Dunsworth) he sets out to clean up Hope City, one criminal at a time.
Now, it might sound like I’m making fun of the film’s plot but nothing could be further from the truth. This film is perfectly aware of how ludicrous all of this is and director Eisener quite wisely never apologizes for the story he tells or the way he tells it. From the start, Hobo With A Shotgun shows that it is a film without shame and therefore, one that you can watch without shame.
It’s also follows Robert Rodriguez’s Machete as the second film to be based on a fake trailer made for the Rodriguez/Quentin Tarantino collaborative film Grindhouse. Here’s the original “fake” trailer that led to a very real movie:
Though it’s gotten nowhere as much hype, I actually think Hobo With A Shotgun is superior to Machete. Grindhouse films may have been excessive but they were still films being made by filmmakers and, as Quentin Tarantino has always seemed to understand, the truly great grindhouse films (the ones that we eagerly wait to see released on DVD) never used the art of excess as just an excuse to do whatever they wanted. The best grindhouse films created their own unique worlds with their own unique rules but once those rules had been set, they weren’t broken. (That, of course, wasn’t true of all grindhouse films. Just the good ones.) That is where Hobo With A Shotgun truly triumphs. You believe in this odd, over-the-top world that the film creates. Everything from the graffiti-covered walls to the garish cinematography to even the overacting of most of the supporting cast; it all comes together to create its own unique world. And once you surrender to that the film’s odd “reality,” the film becomes, in its own warped way, quite compelling.
With the exception of Rutger Hauer in the title role, the cast of Hobo With A Shotgun is largely made up of unknowns and that’s quite a contrast to Machete. However, and I may be in the minority here, I actually felt that all the famous faces in Machete actually had a detrimental effect on the overall film. Too many of them seemed to be slumming or treating Machete as a lark and true grindhouse is never a lark. If there’s one thing you can say for sure about Rutger Hauer’s performance here, it’s that he’s definitely not slumming. Hauer seems to understand that a film like this needs an anchor, something steady that the audience can grab on to whenever the film itself threatens to spin out of control. Wisely, Hauer chooses to underplay his character and, as a result, he dominates the entire film. It’s really a performance that all aspiring actors should watch. Hauer might be playing a hobo with a shotgun but that doesn’t keep him from being the most compelling and believable hobo with a shotgun possible. Out of the rest of the cast, Molly Dunsworth does a good job and manages to be believable whether she’s mourning her lost innocence or stabbing a bad guy to death with a fragment of bone.
Hobo With A Shotgun is currently in limited release here in the United States. What does that mean? Well, that means that if you’re living on the West or East coast you’re in luck. However, if you’re like me and you actually live in a city that’s not going to be targeted by terrorists in the near future, things are a bit more problematic. Luckily, for us, Hobo With Shotgun is available OnDemand which is how I ended up seeing it.
In conclusion, allow me to say, “Canada, you rock!”