Hobo With a Shotgun Review

June 17, 2011

Hobo With a Shotgun is a Canadian genre film. I have a general rule that unless your name is David Cronenberg or Guy Maddin, you should generally find the Canadian genre film to be pretty weak. To catch anyone up to speed on Canadian cinema, modern Canuck films fall into two camps, they are either French-language arty dramas made in Quebec or hard to stomach films that should’ve been made-for-tv such as Bon Cop, Bad Cop or Gunless. A unique third category are what I call the secretly Canadian, which includes films like Splice and Resident Evil: Extinction that are part Canadian part French and German productions respectively. But these films aren’t usually directed by Canadians nor do they prominently star Canadian casts so I don’t count them.

Having the Canadian tag attached to it, I walked into Hobo With a Shotgun with some hesitation. At first, all my worst fears came true. Camera work looked shoddy, the main villains in the film do not inspire me to hate the characters, but the actors portraying them. I was ready to slump uncomfortably in my chair when all of a sudden, something rare happened. It’s unusual for my opinion on a film to change midway through, but as soon as Rutger Hauer picks up his weapon of choice, my attitude towards the film took a total flip. The film felt tighter, and Hauer character lept into basass territory making watching the film a much easier experience. On top of Hauer, we have his sidekick Abby played by Molly Dunsworth who has minimal dialouge and screentime, but shines brightly in her role. The obnoxious villains get also get a backseat to a duo of robotic soldiers known as The Plague. They aren’t super interesting, but they also don’t talk making them infinitely superior to the other duo. Here’s a handy chart to hear what I’m all about.

Hobo With a Shotgun Molly and Rutger

Hobo does not avoid the Canuck trait of showcasing how Canadian it really is. I usually find these home country elements a bit forced, but there are some good injokes in Hobo. Let’s get the bad ones out of the way first with George Stroumboulopoulos, a former MuchMusic VJ and current CBC host making a cameo as a newscaster. This wouldn’t bother me so much if people didn’t cheer when they saw him in on the screen at the Mayfair. Next we have gratuitous use of hockey skates in the film. Oi. Do we have to fill in every Bob & Doug McKenzie stereotype? Doesn’t do it for me. Now let’s get to the better Canadian tropes.

First we have a obscure choice with this automobile:

Yes! A Bricklin! This retro-futuristic car fits perfectly with the tone of the film with it’s gull doors and a design that I only thought was only used on my Hot Wheels when I was 5! The car is a Canadian model and is used prominently throughout the film. The next Canadian reference hit me like a brick wall of nostalgia. It’s a total surprise if you are a Canadian of a certain age to hear this song playing in the background. It was such a weird surprise to me that I don’t want to spoil the song here. If you must know what it is, click here.

Despite the jump in quality in the middle of the film, there are still things that I should bring up. Hobo With a Shotgun‘s retro-aesthetic may strive for a John Carpenter and The Warriors style, but it comes off slightly miscalculated feeling more like a Troma film than Escape From New York with it’s over the top splatter and robotic villains. Some scenes in the film also make no sense and I can’t be sure if this was done purposely or not. One example is during a montage when the Hobo is taking revenge on the deadbeats in town. This scene involves Rutger entering a room with the shotgun barrell pointing in his mouth. He starts laughing. The villains start laughing. Then he pulls out the gun and shoots them. But what was going on? How did this work? What!? I’m not even going to mention the octopus tentacles.

Hobo With a Shotgun won’t change anyone’s mind on these retro-themed films. Cinematically, it’s a basic low-budget revenge plot that contains acting and filmmaking of wildly uneven quality. Perhaps even feeling a bit like a film made by University students who managed to get a hold of Rutger Hauer. I had more fun with this film than the bg budgeted Drive Angry, but I’d recommend it mostly to anyone who either love Rutger Hauer, or was born in Canada between the years ’75 and ’85. As for myself, I’m more curious than excited to see what Jason Eisener is planning next.


Ottawa Cinema – May

April 22, 2011

As summer approaches, we get closer to great period when the theaters are flooded with films of the junk-food variety and give far more crap for me to blog about. I’ll try not to overdose on it by talking about every single minute bit and detail about what’s happening in The Avengers film (see one post below). Instead, let’s focus on what’s coming up in the following month. Let’s start with Ottawa specific action films in May.

Karate-Robo Zaborgar!

I’ve blogged about this earlier and I’m a bit more familiar with the film now. What is potentially disappointing is that the film reportedly not as over the top as Noboru Iguchi’s other films like Machine Girl or Mutant Girls Squad. In other words, no more penis-schnozed monsters. On the otherhand, this film boasts Iguchi’s largest budget to date which has peaked my interest. I still think the 1970s television series looks more humorous in a Flash Gordon type of way. This is only playing one night at the Mayfair theater and it’s sadly only a digital video, but I’ll still trek out to see it.

Karate-Robo Zaborgar is part of the Sushi Typhoon studio who seem to be on good measure with the Mayfair as they’ve shown nearly all their films. For me, watching too many of them too close together makes it a blur of goofy gore and action that make them pretty hard to separate from one another. Sushi Typhoon films are best watched in spread apart individual bursts. That’s why I could potentially skip Hell Driver from Tokyo Gore Police director Yoshihiro Nishimura which is playing the week after. The film does boast a woman with a chainsaw sword though, so we’ll wait and see if I’m curious enough.

The next film coming is one I’ve been putting off watching through an on-demand feature to see if I can get to see it in a theater.

Even the poster is awe-inspiring

Kim Jee-Woon’s film have gained a cult following and it’s understandable why. They are tight, well acted and often gorgeous to look at it. We are thankfully greeted to a 35 mm print of this, opposed to the other films digital projection. Tonight at the Mayfair, another 35 of Kim’s A Tale of Two Sisters is playing which I’m afraid I can’t attend as I’m far out of town. This should be a big improvement over the double feature of The Good, The Bad and the Weird and Deathwish 3 a few months back as the first film was sadly just a DVD projected on the big screen. LAME. The Good, The Bad and the Weird is only disappointing in it’s lack of depth, but a blast through and through. For the curious, Deathwish 3 lived up to it’s reputation as a Cannon classic (if you are a fan of Cannon films that is!)

Outside action films there are a few more exciting films coming to Ottawa in May. The ByTowne cinema shows one of the greatest Hong Kong films ever with a 35 mm print of Chungking Express early in April which plays for three days. I’ll be there. No need for a review as it’s obviously awesome. Later in the month, two Westerns also are coming with The Magnificent Seven at the ByTowne while the Mayfair shows Sam Peckinpah’s Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. The Magnificent Seven doesn’t reach the heights of it’s inspiration (Seven Samurai) but it does have incredible star power and a much parodied score. Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid has Sam Peckinpah directing Bob Dylan which is a concept that kind of blows my mind. I wonder what they thought of each other?

This blog is running a bit long, so let’s summarize the films that you can hopefully catch anywhere in Ottawa with a quick chart and summary:

May Action Films

Hobo with a Shotgun is Canada’s stab at Grindhouse which could have mixed results, but I’d feel foolish to miss out on Canada’s attempt to cash-in on this trend. True Legend has not confirmed for any theater I can find in the Ottawa area, but I’m still hoping some theater will show it despite it’s checkered reputation. I’ve placed Kung Fu Panada 2 smack in the middle as I skipped the first one out and am unfamiliar with it’s plot or quality. But this one has Jackie Chan and Jean-Claude Van Damme in the same film so…should I rent the first one to be ready for this? Would someone who doesn’t really care about the same studio’s Shrek films give this a chance? You tell me as the length of the interest bar might only be stretched due to the film’s title. Lastly we have Thor and Priest. Thor is a film that I only realized is in 3D today so that probably shows how excited I actually am about it. Last and lead is Priest from the director of that movie where black-winged angels had guns or something. Be a good friend to cinema and don’t see Priest.