Hobo with a Shotgun was next on our list of sure-why-not movies. We weren’t expecting much so it wasn’t disappointing when we didn’t get much.
We love us some retro, but some things are best left behind. Hobo with a Shotgun is a throwback to 1970’s grindhouse films (which are a mixture of horror and adrenaline-pumping action). Robert Rodriguez and Quenten Tarantino re-popularized grindhouse briefly with the release of their dual-feature “Planet Terror/Death Proof.” Given how much movies have evolved, new films like Hobo with a Shotgun (a spin-off of the Rodriguez/Tarantino project) made in the grindhouse vein are novelties of an already trivial genre.
Grindhouse movies are a subgroup of films in the “exploitation” genre. Exploitation movies are essentially the result of what happens when a Super 8 gets into the hands of a deviant that has just enough money and connections to vomit out a feature film. These types of films are exploitative in that antisocial and hedonistic themes are presented in a negative light but shown in such explicitness that they elicit a voyeuristic attraction that should instead be repulsion. Like the clichéd, “watching a train wreck,” we suppose. For example, anti-drug exploitation movies like “Reefer Madness” were less educational than sensational. Sexploitation films, another subgenre, are supposedly cautionary tales about how lurid behavior such as promiscuity and fetishism can lead to horrible consequences, but the creators spend the entire film graphically showing the behavior in detail. Anti-violence revenge films (like the films Hobo with a Shotgun emulates) are bloody, brutal, and banal. What exploitation films lack in talent and substance, they make up for in shock value.
So, why watch the movie? If grindhouse is your thing, Hobo will entertain. As a standalone film it’s developed and scripted awfully — but that’s the point. Within the genre it’s a success. The violence is pervasive and the exploited message is that the world is full of evil and righteous violence is the only way to save it. The characters are well-acted in a poor manner, keeping the production honest to its roots. Rutger Hauer is credible as a gritty tragic hero; Brian Downey is outrageously evil; and, Molly Dunsworth’s “Abby” is a sympathetic character insofar as a prostitute can be in this type of film (this isn’t Pretty Woman; thank goodness, by the way – what a pile that movie was).
There are moments the film’s cleverness is amusingly good. The iron-clad horrors called “The Plague” are scary SOBs and are our favorite elements in the film. A Youtube user has been kind enough to rip one of the best sequences of the film for our pleasure.
Another thing we really liked about the film was Nick Bateman’s performance as Ivan. Bateman plays the part of a psychotic underachieving son of a sadistic father. A curious little detail: Bateman has the incredible ability to move his head and limbs so fast we thought the film had skipped a few times. One microsecond he’s looking to the left. A half microsecond later he’s looking to the right. Kind of like a Max Headroom experience. It’s a very minor oddity to be sure, but when you watch the film see if you’re as impressed by the lad’s dexterity as we are.
Unlike Taken, Hobo doesn’t really bother with a heartstrings approach to vengeance. The bad guys are so ridiculous that you really don’t hate them. You just enjoy watching them explode in a gush of movie gore. See? Exploitation, right? Violence is paid back in violence and we just can’t look away!
In short, grindhouse movies are terrible. Hobo with a Shotgun is admirably terrible.