Review: Hobo with a Shotgun is better than Machete

The film that began as Nova Scotian Jason Eisener’s entry into a make-your-own Grindhouse trailer competition back in 2007 was expanded into a feature last year, and is set to hit theaters this spring.  Movies based on silly trailers have a bit of a dubious track record, which I think we were all willing to cautiously overlook on account of this one being called “Hobo with a Shotgun.”  It’s up there with Hot Tub Time Machine and Snakes on a Plane on my list of Names That Make Ya Go LOLWUT?  But does the finished product live up to its potential?  COME WITH ME TO FIND OUT, ON A MAGICAL JOURNEY THROUGH WORDS AND TEXT!

Ouch, you guys, my soul hurts.  I guess that’s just what happens when you watch a naked whore writhe in fresh corpse blood, a guy try to saw off a hooker’s head with a hacksaw, a man gingerly fondle his shotgun-blasted balls, and a pack of hyenas cut off a wildebeest’s penis and then make him eat it piece by piece while they rape his wife.  I’m not sure that last one was even in the movie, or if I just imagined it because my mind is now so warped.  I know the violence in Hobo with a Shotgun wasn’t meant to be taken seriously, but at times it wasn’t so much clever or gleeful, just brutal, and borderline disturbing.  But shouldn’t depictions of violence be disturbing, you might be asking, especially if you’re some kind of overeducated, close-reading psychobabbler?  I suppose it should, if you’re trying to make a comment on violence, but in a comical faux-exploitation film it doesn’t quite play.  If the sex and violence and swearing in these Grindhousey movies feels so good because it’s so wrong, like a dead-baby joke, or your sister’s tittie, it’s still easier to enjoy when it doesn’t make you feel like a sadist.  The gore was a little excessive in Hobo with a Shotgun.  Not enough to make or break the movie for me, but I dread the inevitable Pollyannical, conflatulent screed from Armond White, on the topic of this generation’s despicable delectation for endless decapitation.  He won’t be right, but the ammo’s there.

[Warning, next sentence unintentionally humorous when viewed without context]
Where Hobo with a Shotgun really won me over was in the quiet moments.

What makes Hobo better than Machete is that it’s cleverer, in subtle ways.  I hope Danny Trejo doesn’t shiv me in the shower for saying this (mira, I still love ju, puto) but the Hobo is a more fun character than Machete.  He’s more than just a badass.  He’s also noble and pathetic, like a Windex-chugging Don Quixote, where beneath the feces-stained flannels dwells the soul of a romantic.  His delightfully absurd obsessions carry the movie, whether he’s dreaming of one day being able to afford a lawnmower (Rosebud?), or lovingly gifting his hooker with a heart of gold a framed picture of a grizzly bear.  (Dear Whore, I think you’re GRRRrreat!)  Rutger Hauer absolutely nails a cleverly-written role with just the right mix of hero and clown.

If the violence is a wash and Rutger Hauer as hero is an unqualified success, what kept me from loving this movie with all my chest guts are the minor characters. The acting… it just kind of sucks.  Yes, the acting is supposed to suck in a movie like this, but Grindhouse bad-good acting is at its best when it’s underplayed.  Rutger Hauer could use a straight man.  When the Hobo violence (also the name of my indie band, etc.) spills into a hospital, the doctors and nurses there behave less like innocent bystanders than actors desperate to chew their five seconds of screen time into a supporting role in Tyrese’s next snuff film (oh, you didn’t know that about him?). Director Jason Eisener should’ve toned them down a bit.  They’re just meat fuel for the gore machine, I don’t need to know their names.

That said, the movie worked despite them. I left the theater smiling because Hobo was a nicely-consistent vision — this comical, Canadian Robocoppish dystopia (Robocopulopia?).  Beautifully shot and cleverly-written, it breathes on its own without many winky references, just a ton of the kind of gloriously dumb-smart, one-line vulgarisms you hope to hear in a movie like this.

“Girl, you look so fine I just wanna cut my d*ck off and rub it all over your titties.”

“They’re gonna make comic books out of my hate crimes.”

“Let’s get inside, I gotta wash this guy’s *sshole off my face.”

I guess I just identified with it, you know?

Where Robert Rodriguez seems to have a predilection for WWE posturing and plot chaos, Jason Eisener keeps the tone playful and the plot simple. Suffice to say, DA HOBO GRINDHOUSED’D IT BETTER.

GRADE: B+ (it had its problems, but I’d see it again, let’s put it that way)