August 19, 2011

Hobo with a Shotgun (2011)

"A homeless vigilante blows away crooked cops, paedophile Santas, and other scumbags with his trusty pump-action shotgun."

Having just watched "Hobo with a Shotgun", this isn't going to be a review so much as a rant against intentionally making movies "so bad that they're good". It seems to be just a lame excuse for having poor filmmaking skills and I'm sick to death of this trend. I'm also getting increasingly annoyed by the word "grindhouse" and its frequent use in the claim that a movie wasn't supposed to be any good in the first place.

Until the box office failure of "Grindhouse" (2007), I had never even heard the term "grindhouse" used before. For me, it conjures up an image of porn cinemas full of dirty old men in raincoats with hats on their laps not low-budget action flicks. I'm still not entirely convinced that the word wasn't invented by Quentin Tarantino and thrown into the world as if it was something that everybody should know just so that he could plagiarise ideas from old movies. In all the years that I'd been reviewing, I'd never heard it mentioned once in relation to exploitation movies and I've come across some pretty obscure terms.

So if the word "grindhouse" is bogus, it's obvious that the films themselves don't really belong to that category especially not these new faux-grindhouse B-movies such as "Planet Terror", "Death Proof", "Machete" and now, based on another fake trailer from the theatrical release of "Grindhouse", "Hobo with a Shotgun".

There were, of course, a lot of badly made low-budget films from all genres back in the '60s and '70s ranging from "spaghetti westerns" to "kung fu" and "peplum" epics, and, obviously, there was a good proportion of sci-fi, horror and crime dramas among all the exploitation films otherwise I wouldn't have any knowledge of them. Most people have never seen or have any interest in this dreck unless a particular title has a cult following. However, these films weren't only shown in seedy fleapits but also in drive-ins and mainstream movie theatres as supporting features because they were cheap to hire. The whole suggestion that there was ever a certain type of movie other than porn which was specifically designed to be shown in a "Grind House" is therefore flawed.

To lump a group of these films together as "grindhouse" and then to try to emulate their failings rather than their good points is also just plain wrong. Those bygone filmmakers didn't set out to make bad films but they often simply didn't have the budget or talent to make them any better. The European clones of better American movies were, however, another story entirely.

"Hobo with a Shotgun" really sickened me because it was just another part of the Tarantino-inspired hipster trend to intentionally make crappy films based on the worst examples from the '70s and hype them as if they are something "cool". It's the Emperor's new clothes over and over again. Absolutely anyone can make a bad movie, just hand me a camera and I'll show you. It's the combination of talent, discipline and hard work needed to make a good one which people should find more impressive not lazy efforts like this.

Having said that, you can't manufacture a cult film, it just happens by accident. Nobody watches old Steve Reeves "Hercules" movies because they were intended to be quirky or praises "Django" because of its considerable flaws. Most sane people appreciate those films because they tried to be good. Bad movies are never cool, they are just a waste of time.

Basically, "Hobo with a Shotgun" was a ridiculous, poorly made Canadian fairytale set in an alternative reality where some people could be beaten to a pulp, electrocuted or stabbed repeatedly and still continue as if nothing much had happened to them while others would suffer in agony or die instantly with no attempts at consistency.

While it's obvious that it was intended to look just like an exploitation film from the '70s, it had no grittiness or realism to it which a modern audience would expect. I'm not talking about the deluded "so bad that it's good" audience, obviously, as their discernment is skewed to start with. It was borderline Troma-esque silliness with an incongruous vigilante story being played straight underneath.

Only Rutger Hauer could possibly walk away from this film with his reputation intact as nobody else demonstrated any acting ability whatsoever. Appropriate casting was clearly not a huge priority. If you are going to have psychopathic villains in a movie then shouldn't you at least use actors who look the part and can pull the roles off? When the bit part girls who laughed insanely at a human piñata stood out more than the main cast, it told me all that I needed to know.

There were some good moments placed randomly in the otherwise predictable plot but nothing memorable. Even a classical arming scene and other parts of the aristeia were weak and strived vainly to be humourous. If "Hobo with a Shotgun" was intended to be some kind of parody, it failed completely in its attempts to be funny.

The special effects were quite good in places and, to its credit, "Hobo with a Shotgun" didn't shy away from showing some really quite horrible things. Unfortunately, most of the gore was too over-the-top and comically exaggerated to be satisfying. Though obviously not quite the same thing, Uwe Boll's "Rampage" (2009) did nearly everything that this film had to offer about a hundred times better apart from some of the more inventive deaths. There was no pathos to any of the kills here, no characters that you really cared about enough to be moved by their predicaments or suffering, and there was far too much craziness going on to make any emotional investment. It was simply a very superficial and mean-spirited mess.

One of the overly popular expressions which I've now come to appreciate is "style over substance". It sums up "Hobo with a Shotgun" perfectly. There was no great depth to this film even with occasional attempts to include clichéd social commentary, but based on the title, I doubt that anybody would even expect there to be.

It was all trying too hard to be "cult" and, ultimately, that's why it never could be.

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