Sundance Review: Hobo With A Shotgun Is Gleeful And Depraved
Hobo With A Shotgun, even just looking at the title, screams midnight movie. Featuring the iconic Blade Runner baddie Rutger Hauer and a totally irresistible high concept, it's a movie that encourages cheers and screams and constant laughter, quite possibly egged on by illicit substances-- the director of the preceding short "The Legend of Beaver Dam" announced he "hoped to hear some bottles hitting the floor" once the movie started.
The short made for a perfect lead-in to the movie, a take on the campers-in-the-woods slasher genre combined with a kind of Glee-esque penchant for musical numbers and fantasy. It was hilariously and brutally gruesome, featuring both a desiccated villain climbing out of the woods and a 8-year-old kid stabbing that villain in the skull with a Swiss army knife. Then it all wrapped up in a musical number about fulfilling your dreams and impressing the local bullies through murder and mayhem-- if any of these things sounds appealing to you, you're going to be a perfect audience for Hobo With A Shotgun as well.
As many flaws as the feature presentation may have had-- despite the fact that a lot of them, like hammy acting and cheesy special effects, are probably deliberate-- the primary one is that it's not nearly as concise as the short that preceded it. Hobo With A Shotgun runs at 98 minutes and doesn't venture much beyond the promise of its central gimmick; while Rutger Hauer blowing away bad guys with a hunting rifle is still a damn good way to spend your midnight, at a certain point you start wishing for more characters beyond the crusading hobo, the hooker with the heart of gold (Molly Dunsworth) and the bombastically evil bad guys. That exaggeration is funny, sure, but it doesn't make for particularly great stakes or dramatic tension as the plot shuffles along.
But what a midnight movie crowd is looking for is gore, breasts and humor, and Hobo With A Shotgun pulls through on all three with a masterfully lurid tone that perfectly destroys the line of good taste. It's not just enough that a man be decapitated with barbed wire, but that a woman in a white bikini immediately bathe gleefully in his blood; a bus full of schoolchildren doesn't just get torched, but one charred corpse waved in front of the remaining terrified parents. Director Jason Eisener clearly has no use for morality-- even the heroic Hobo thinks of nothing of blowing people away for incredibly minor crimes-- and if you're willing to jump into his gleefully hedonistic world, there's a lot of fun to be had.
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