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Hobo with a Shotgun (2011)

by on 2011/07/08

“I just tell my brain, when I know I’m hurting, I just say I got nothing for you buddy, nothing.”

* *

Buried somewhere inside this review are three very conflicted critics. One of them wants to give its subject four stars out of love for the trailer. Another wants to award it five for the video’s documentary. Unfortunately, neither of them is the one who won out in the end.

And yet even the winner is conflicted. I’m not sorry I saw the flick — and usually three stars would suffice — but a part of me feels unclean with it loitering bold as brass in my home.

I’m speaking of the internet’s CanCon sensation, Hobo with a Shotgun (NSFW).

Winner of an online contest just a few years back, the faux trailer seedling for this B-picture was placed, Machete style, before many showings of Grindhouse. I was fortunate to catch it back then and, to date, I still mimic the voiceover. “Hobo with a shotgun!” I’ll growl madly. The narrator’s delivery was simply pitch perfect, and the title itself . . . well, I haven’t heard something as funny since The Simpsons came up with Fart Date.

Fortunately, like Machete, Hobo as a trailer was so exceedingly popular, it quickly moved into production as a feature-length affair.

Unfortunately, also like Machete, Hobo didn’t work for me.

I thought at several points of a popular Onion clip: Wildly Popular ‘Iron Man’ Trailer To Be Adapted Into Full-Length Film.

Okay, enough preamble.

I’m probably the only person — including original Hobo David Brunt — who isn’t overwhelmed at Rutger Hauer (Blade Runner) taking the lead. There, I said it. He’s too well-known, too well fed, too comfortable and, frankly, too talented. Done. Take it as read and move on.

The Hobo rides a train into town . . . Hope Town, that is, also called Scum Town and later Fuck Town. He’s nearly apathetic, wandering the streets carrying his bindle on a cane, collecting bottles, begging for change. He’s saving for a lawn mower, and dreaming of entrepreneurship.

He eventually notices the population’s mood is decidedly grim. Most people are scared, driven to victimization or, in self-defence, to violence. When the town’s corruption hits him close to home, he shuns the mower for a firearm. Now he is — as he reminds us in one scene — a hobo with a shotgun.

Canadiana is scattered throughout. The vagrant is offered an old ten-dollar bill. The antagonists drive a Bricklin. The very first victim is one of the Trailer Park Boys. (Hell, I don’t even watch them and I recognized him.) Another cameo goes to George Stroumboulopoulos as, naturally, a newsie. Lisa Lougheed’s Raccoons theme, “Run With Us” plays over the credits.

I was slightly mollified to recognize David Brunt as one of the dirty cops. In fact, he says it outright: “We’re all dirty cops!” in a plaintive scream, looking directly into the camera lens for a beat more than necessary.

That overextension was kind of my issue with the movie as a whole. It didn’t know when enough was enough, and it didn’t recreate the trailer’s spirit very well. It certainly made less effort compared to Machete in going through the motions. Some original elements didn’t make it into the feature. Others felt as if they had been shoehorned into place. The remainder passed by too offhandedly to matter.

Did I enjoy anything about it?

I’m definitely a bit of a sucker for retro-distressed artifacts. The visuals have been supersaturated with blooming bright colours, then layered with grain. The Technicolor logo shown is decades out of date. An overdramatic soundtrack runs the gamut from choral to new wave, ending in the mid-Eighties, and unaware of the word “consistent”.

But all of that’s the window through which the viewer will watch the effects. Stunningly good for such a low-budget show, they’re graphic and employed to some overwhelmingly grim ends.

I rarely worry — or need to — much about the morality of what I watch, perhaps — and despite — not being religious or spiritually bent. Nevertheless I kept thinking of the phrase “morally bankrupt”. Of course, Hobo is self-evident exploitation, but I still felt it went overboard. The few good cops meet a bad end. A girl on the verge of redemption suffers horribly. Hospital workers are slaughtered. Children are set on fire.

See, I have this problem with kids suffering. It keeps me from enjoying stuff like Butterfly Effect, Max Payne, and Ransom. I’m not convinced the good outweighs the bad. It’s a matter of sound and fury, art for art’s sake, pathological self-pleasure.

Perhaps it might be best described as anti-CanCon CanCon.

I believed I knew what to expect, but it seems this time I was wrong. Like Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter gone way too far — right off the rails, I’d say — Hobo with a Shotgun (the movie) lacks three things I loved in the trailer: a more distressed appearance, a superlative narration, and sufficient David Brunt for my finicky palate.

Or maybe it’s simpler still. Less could really be more.

Which suggests I should probably end the review ASAP.

* *

Rated R for disturbing scenes, drug use, gore, nudity, and violence

87 minutes

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