‘Hobo with a Shotgun’: Shooting blanks

May 4, 2011


I want to discuss “Hobo with a Shotgun” but first, let’s talk about the modern (or maybe that’s postmodern) B-movie aesthetic.

I’m against it.

I’m not against real B movies, which were programmers cranked out by the studios in the 1930s and 1940s, when theaters featured a new double-feature every week, if not more often. Most of them were pretty bad, rushed through production in a couple of weeks with lower-echelon actors.

But some of them were pretty good: tough, spare, no-nonsense. Even if they were bad, they weren’t intentionally bad.

Which brings us to the grindhouse movies of the 1960s and 1970s – and the subsequent deification of that aesthetic in the juicy and energetic “Grindhouse” by Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino in 2007. That movie featured a cornucopia of trailers for nonexistent grindhouse movies that offered a bevy of directors the chance to get in on Rodriguez and Tarantino’s splattery fun.

One of those trailers actually got made (the irresistibly outré “Machete”) into a movie. And now we have “Hobo with a Shotgun,” a movie that sprang from a contest to create a trailer for a movie that doesn’t exist in the “Grindhouse” mold.

Which, of course, led to “Hobo with a Shotgun,” the actual movie. But really – once you had the title and the trailer, why mess with perfection?

Well, obviously, because you can. Who wouldn’t grab the opportunity, given the chance?

Just because you can do it, however, doesn’t necessarily mean you should. Hence, “Hobo with a Shotgun,” which feels less like a movie than a joke about a movie – to which you need to buy a ticket to see the punchline.

It’s not worth it.

I can’t say with certainty whether filmmaker Jason Eisener set out deliberately to make a bad movie but that’s what it feels like. But it takes a sensibility far more acute than his and his cowriters to turn this mish-mash from a string of crudely sadistic violent moments to a film with the kind of humor and thrills that Tarantino created in “Death Proof.”

The brilliance of “Hobo” begins and ends with its title and its casting: Rutger Hauer, a modern B-movie star, as the nameless hobo who initiates an Eastwoodian vendetta against a group of small-time bad guys in the town where the hobo happened to hop off the freight he was riding.

The plot is perfunctory, the violence gruesomely gross – but there’s nothing with even a scintilla of the wit of a line like “Machete don’t text.”

Indeed, I feel as though I’ve given more thought to this film already than the filmmakers did in making it. So I’ll stop.

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