Monday, August 15, 2011

Hobo with a Shotgun: is the world really that bad?

I'm not in a very good mood at the moment. It's not your fault. You Warning Signs readers have surprised me with your support. But sometimes the world just seems like a rotten place. (My problem is so minor compared to the issues many people are dealing with that I feel like a dick even being upset about it.) To make myself feel better, I'm watching "Hobo with a Shotgun."

The grindhouse movie just showed up on Netflix instant watch. Otherwise, I'd be tempted to watch "Office Space," my usual go-to movie in these situations.

The Rutger Hauer-starring film began life as a fake trailer in a contest held by Robert Rodriguez to promote "Grindhouse." Twenty minutes into it, "Hobo" is living up to the exploitation tradition is was spawned from. Hauer is at his rugged best. He's like a middle aged Travis Bickle. In fact, a subplot involving the Hobo rescuing a young prostitute is right out of "Taxi Driver."

"Hobo," however, is bloodier than that 1970s classic (which is saying something) and doesn't find the same redemption the characters of "Taxi Driver" earn. There is a moment late in the film when the residents of Hope Town (or Scum Town, as it is referred to) put themselves on the line for the Hobo (after previously forming mobs to kill him and all homeless people in the town). It's a cruel lesson to learn that nobility doesn't get you very far in this kind of world.

The colors and soft focus of "Hobo with a Shotgun" are also right out of the '70s, but the use of media (including a "Bum Fights"-style cameraman) is pure 21st century.

The question "Hobo with a Shotgun" and films like it ask is this: is the world so bad that we can cheer for a murdering vigilante as longs as the people he kills are worse? The simple answer is yes, we do it all the time in literature, cinema and comics. But in real life? Probably not.

Hauer's performance makes it easier to be on his side. He's a desperate man in a desperate situation. he could go on living like less of a man and ignore the horrors around him or he can fight back and maybe gain a bit of himself back. Going to far, however, could cost him everything he's fought for.

It is up to each viewer to decide if the result is worth the price.

Threat level: RED. "Hobo with a Shotgun" is not for every viewer, but those who take the leap to watch it are in for a wild ride.

"Hobo with a Shotgun" is not rated. Rutger Hauer stars in the film directed by Jason Eisener and written by John Davies. Available on DVD, Blu-ray and Netflix Instant Watch.

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