Thursday, July 7, 2011

Hobo with a Shotgun (Jason Eisner, 2011) -- C+

Though fronting a grindhouse-inspired veneer, Jason Eisner's Hobo with a Shotgun is actually more of a kindred spirit with Alex Cox's cinema, integrating giggle-driven extreme, cartoonish violence with socio-cultural degradation, culminating in pre-apocalyptic dread. Unfortunately, Eisner is, like all of his peers, driven by the cinematic posturing itself, rather than its underlying mechanism: thematic conviction. Content to rehash rather than reinvent, nothing is allowed to progress past circular logic, since a simple act of reverence is also self-effacing. World-weary Hobo (Rutger Hauer) strolls into a town overrun by young hooligans and headed by a silly tyrant named The Drake (Brian Downey). Cut-up, beaten, and exploited to the breaking point, Hobo snaps up a shotty during a robbery, becomes a "hero", and seeks continual vengeance. None of the exposition really matters - this is all about stylistic flourishes driving empty revenge. Neons, smoke, and harsh chiaroscuro characterize the mise-en-scene: flashy but meaningless. Moreover, Hobo with a Shotgun wholly misunderstands the vigilante ethos, rooting action in wink-wink self-awareness, instantaneously rendering itself insignificant. True vigilante narratives sprung from tradition clashing with post-Vietnam disillusionment; in other words, the place of personal justice in a milieu where governmental law fails. Though far more astute in its style and sense of humor than Robert Rodriguez's train wrecks Planet Terror and Machete, Eisner can't progress past a palpable sense of tedium, failing to provide a reason for his film to exist, other than allowing himself to enact an indulgent homage. If only his understanding of genre theory and practice were more astute.

1 comment:

  1. "far more astute in its style and sense of humor than Robert Rodriguez's train wrecks Planet Terror and Machete,"

    My feelings exactly. I won't disagree that the film is themeless, but I really loved it for its impressive lo-fi mise en scene, lead performance, and wild and inventive ways of killing people on screen. The bit with The Plague and the harpoon gun he used to hang people from the ceiling was utterly brilliant. The film reminded me of all my favorite Troma films (which is fair since the film was shot on a Troma-esque budget), and having Hauer in the lead role was awesome!

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