Friday, October 11, 2013

Review: Hobo With A Shotgun

Version I Watched: Netflix instant watch.

History: Was based on a fake trailer produced for a grindhouse trailer competition put together by Robert Rodriguez. It gained so much popularity from the competition that it turned into a feature length film. It was made for $3 Million but didn't even make half of it back in the US. It gained a cult status on home video but all in all has very mixed reviews.

Personal History: I saw the fake trailer that came before this movie a bunch of times. I thought it was hilarious! And when I found out there would be a full movie I was... interested... but more on that in a moment.

Review: You ever notice when something gets really popular no matter how small a group it tends to be milked and milked so much until everyone hates it? Of course you notice because you can't get away from it! That seems to be the American way for pop culture. We've seen this with zombies, vampires, more recently super heroes (it's a fad and will eventually die out or fall into obscurity because they'll run out of stuff to do), but I remember something else. Something a bit more niche.
Grindhouse was a three hour long double feature. As in no joke, an actual double feature. When it was released it played both Robert Rodriguez's Planet Terror and Quentin Taratino's Death Proof. It was a cool experiment on the old grindhouse model and each was a shining example of the type of movie you would see in grindhouses. Complete with intentional grain on the film strip and missing reels. It was a beautiful experience and I loved every minute of it. While the movie was technically a box office bomb the attention it did bring, built up a further interest in grindhouse again. It seemed like all at once a bunch of groups of people wanted to recreate the grindhouse experience, just like Robbie and Quint did. There were imitation style movies, video games (like Wet and House of the Dead: Overkill), but I would say the most popular were the fake trailers.
Fake trailers were featured in Grindhouse both before and between the features. They included ones by Rob Zombie, Edgar Wright, Eli Roth, and one that turned into a real deal franchise by Robert Rodriguez, Machete. Online there was a further explosion of fake trailers. One of those that became very popular was Hobo With A Shotgun. It was a hilarious compilation of a wacky movie where a hobo is cleaning up the streets using nothing more than a shotgun and all his rage. But when I found out there would be a full length movie... I was interested... but not hopeful.
Cut to a few years later and here I am finally getting around to it. The results are not so great.

Don't get me wrong. I LOOOOOOOVE retro style, grainy, rough looking movies. When a modern filmmaker can pull it off it looks amazing and gives a unique experience that can only be captured by actually watching a movie from the era they're referencing. But making a movie in that style doesn't automatically make it great. Just like how if you simply insert element A or reference B doesn't make it great either. One of the many problems I have with the show Big Bang Theory is because it falls under those lines but more on that in a future post. The thing with this movie is that it's great in concept. It's a funny skit that works in the two minutes it took to play out in the fake trailer it started from. But this concept rarely translates well to an extended story. That's why people try to forget about most of the movie versions of SNL skits. Unfortunately I feel this one didn't do the translation so well.
There's not much to say about the plot. The title kind of says it all but at the same time there's no telling by the title of he's the good or bad guy. Well, he's the good guy. The plot is super simple. Everyone in the city he rolled into is corrupt. I mean everyone! (minus a very few) And it's all because of a guy named Drake who like in many cliches runs the town. Our hobo hero first runs into him on the streets when he kills a guy, on display, by ripping the man's head off (Don't really wanna spoil how cause it's plenty creative) while forcing all the innocent bystanders to watch or else he'll kill them. He's a sick bastard who has two sons as sick and disgusting as he is. After frustration with all the crime in the streets the hobo decides to take the money he has saved up to buy a shotgun and take action into his own hands.
When you read that plot doesn't that sound amazing?! Of course it does. But something about it just didn't translate well into a feature. I didn't find the movie to be terribly engaging, and for a movie that only lasts 80 minutes before credits I found it to be a lengthy task to get through. And for all the wild, out there, grindhouse styles it was going for I felt the movie did something so many imitators do wrong. They tried way too hard.

Now I don't feel they tried too hard in terms of the grindhouse flare. The movie is shot very old fashioned looking minus all the fast cuts in the action sequences. But everything does look very dirty and the image was very off colored like it was done on the mega cheap (trivia: It was filed with a Red camera). If anything I really like the way the movie looked. Where I felt they tried too hard was in their execution with how dark and evil this Drake guy and his two sons are. It's all very over the top violence. And I'm sure they were going for tongue in cheek, but many parts just didn't quite come off that way. For example, a lot of children are killed in this movie. And I don't mean off screen. There's one scene where Drake's two sons jump on a school bus filled with kids and burn them alive with a flamethrower. The scene ends with a kid screaming bloody murder while using whatever life they have left in them to call for help out the back window of the bus. This and some other over the top elements didn't come off as "Holy shit! They went so far! This is so grindhouse old school!" like it's all part of one big joke. Instead it came off as, "Sheesh, that was really dark. Like... REALLY dark." Don't get me wrong, I actually have a very filthy mind when it comes to my sense of humor, and I love dark humor a bunch, too. If you saw some of the movies in my collection you'll also know I'm not squeemish. But when some of these scenes of such intense violence in the tone they chose it feels more like a friend was trying to tell a dirty joke but went just a pinch too far, or told it wrong and it makes you wonder if your friend is a serial killer or something.
I also want to point out I understand it's possible to tell a joke straight face. You play the part as serious as possible and let the tone, writing, etc do the comedy work. It actually makes things a lot funnier. See Naked Gun, or a closer example to this would be Planet Terror or even Crank, movies that are obviously not meant to be taken seriously. But they are able to maintain the joke throughout without having to turn and wink at the audience. With Hobo with a Shotgun they got the idea right with the plot, but the way it plays is just too mistakenly serious a lot of the time. It's like they accidentally forgot they were making a satire partway through. Especially when they were establishing the relationship between the hobo and the hooker he saved (who is now his good friend). All in all I felt like they tried too hard and it came off differently than they were anticipating. That or they were trying to make something different than what everyone was expecting. I don't know.

Now there was plenty I did like that I felt redeemed the movie somewhat. First, the actor who played the hobo. Knocked it out of the park. He was an absolute blast to watch. His role was to play an angry hobo out to set things straight and he did a beautiful job. I was so happy to see him on screen saying just about anything. It was always really intense and angry. Or he was delivering justice with some great lines to boot.
So casting was VERY well done in this case. But not just with the dialogue I also loved it when he was kicking ass. He has nothing to lose since he is as low as he can go. So when he finally gets the shotgun it is so satisfying to see him blowing them all away in a great and gory fashion. The gun has that intense impact that makes you wanting more. But basically that's what I liked about the movie. The hobo, his shotgun, and seeing him kick ass with some great lines.
It may sound like I hated this movie but that's not the case. I wasn't expecting it to be another Planet Terror or Death Proof, but I wasn't expecting it to be trying this hard. It left me wanting more from the hobo, not the bad guy. Honestly it spent too much time with the bad guy setting up what would be resolved by the hobo very simply with his shotgun. Overall the movie had it's fun moment. Could be worse. Still... hard to recommend unless you're into this style of movie.

Sorry I didn't have more to say... this movie just had a very obvious positive and negative parts with little else present. If I go any further it'll sound repetitive.

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