Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Rutger Hauer for the Win: Hobo With A Shotgun

Should you see this film? A simple litmus test first: go to director Jason Eisener's YouTube page:
and find "Report Card" or "The Number to Heaven." If you are entertained by these, you'll more than get your money's worth in ordering Hobo With A Shotgun through video on-demand (there is not a Minnesota theater release scheduled as of this date). 

Instead of beating the Grindhouse genre to death and throwing out comparisons to others like it, I'm taking a risk in proclaiming that this film strikes a chord not only through its production but its humanity. Yeah, you heard me correctly. There is a lot of heart in this film, from its creators to its actors to its music and props, Hobo With A Shotgun is not a slouch, even though it very easily could have been. 
(check out Wikipedia for a complete history of how this film came to be).
Rutger Hauer stars as a nameless Hobo who disembarks from a train into a small town overrun with crime, indifferent inhabitants, and bad guys who wear white (so as to spotlight all the red from the bloodshed they're so fond of causing, maybe). And if you made it through Eisener's short videos, still be forewarned---there is a lot of violent unpleasantness in this film: Barbed Wire. Ice Skates. Razor blades attached to baseball bats, and so on. As The Hobo pushes a shopping cart through the streets, asking politely for spare change, we see early on that despite being down on his luck, he is not without empathy or moral fiber, even in such an apathetic environment. In an isolated parking lot he's offered ten dollars in exchange for pounding a man on camera---he refuses and moves on. After initially creating a cardboard sign that referenced a (fictional) child with an injury, he writes a different, honest one: "Am Tired. Need $$ for Lawnmower." Later he strikes up a friendship with Abby, a prostitute whom he rescued from one of the white-wearers; the two plan to leave town and start a lawn mowing business together but things just don't go well. And as the title suggests, The Hobo takes justice into his own hands during a pawn shop robbery, choosing a shotgun over the pined-for lawnmower. 
This film is what it is primarily because of Hauer, the soft-spoken calmness he shows in most of his early scenes is a great contrast to all the roaring and gun firing he does later, just as Hauer's gentlemanly good looks (hello, blue eyes) play well against all the blood, abuse, and violence. His tenderness toward Abby--leaving a thank-you note and photograph of a bear in her empty picture frame, constantly referring to her as a teacher (not a whore), and bringing her a paper cup of wilted dandelions---these sorts of choices (by the writer and by Hauer's credible embodiment on screen) really set this film above and beyond many others of its kind. The violence is awful, almost too much to handle, but The Hobo as a reluctant hero is wonderful; complexities like these make for the very best narratives.
Also done well were the choices in color, special effects, and most of all, music. One comparison I will make is the link between good Grindhouse and a John Carpenter-esque score; it's almost a necessity in the horror genre, especially during those hospital scenes, and this film pulled it off brilliantly. There were some really great piano instrumentals going on, too, sometimes nostalgic and happy, sometimes menacing, but again, well done and interesting, adding a lot to the overall production. 
A disturbing, funny, bloody good time. Eisener's grade on this report card? FANTASTIC!