Published Mar 24, 2011If Hobo with a Shotgun were a person, it would be that guy raving about some indie Korean gore-movie he saw that no one else did, claiming never to watch studio movies while counting down the days until the next Batman sequel comes out. Having no real defining skill, characteristic or plight, it would attempt only to be the bastion of "cool," living life as an image, searching desperately for the validation of anyone willing to say, "I love that vintage T-shirt. Where did you get it?"
Confusedly, this Canadian sleaze-fest attempts to simultaneously emulate and satirize the Grindhouse genre (not coincidentally, as it won the Grindhouse trailer contest in Canada), embracing the more controversial and emotionally stunted aspects of the cheaply made drive-in films while mocking their obvious lack of panache.
It opens in Fuck Town, where the titular homeless ersatz cowboy (played by Rutger Hauer) rescues Abby (Molly Dunsworth), a hooker with a heart of gold, from a grisly fate at the hands of resident bad boy and mutilator Slick (Gregory Smith). Unsurprisingly, this preliminary conflict defines the overriding premise of this intentionally "B" homage film, putting the vigilante Hobo and the hooker on the villain radar, inevitably building up to a presumably bloody climax.
Now, in theory, the low budget representation of an unwashed homeless man creatively killing paedophile Santas and snuff filmmakers in the streets while doling out hokey one-liners could be fun, in a campy, self-conscious Troma way. Surely an abundance of comedy can stem from cheesy, unrealistic kills and dialogue like, "I'm gonna wash off this blood with your blood." It's just that Hobo lacks the perspective, discipline and understanding to pull it off.
While the kitschy, heartfelt moments have a specific tone, finding derisive comedy in dorky bear sweatshirts and strained allegory, along with the amusement of a homeless man bringing a nearly decapitated hooker a Dixie cup full of dead weeds in the hospital, the handling of death and gender representation has a decidedly different dynamic. Rather than mocking the fact that every female character is a hooker or topless, there is an overwhelming sense of puerile glee in this throwback allowance for misogyny. Similarly, the satirical tone is barely evident during particularly nihilistic kill sequences involving arms in lawnmowers and crushed heads.
It's as though the filmmakers decided to pick and choose what to mock and to embrace, making for a messy, unfocused final product that can only appeal to a very niche male audience. What's more is that for all of its unrefined trashiness, there is an overwhelming sense of pretence and hipster affectation that even Harmony Korine and Whit Stillman would gasp at. (Alliance)