Dann in reel life: So it's a hobo? With a shotgun?

  • Rutger Hauer stars as the slightly miffed "Hobo With a Shotgun."

    Rutger Hauer stars as the slightly miffed "Hobo With a Shotgun."

Posted6/17/2011 12:15 AM

Reel Life mini-review: 'Hobo With a Shotgun'

Here's a blood-soaked, unabated urban revenge fantasy rendered in such over-the-top excesses that it becomes an adults-only version of a Roadrunner/Wile E. Coyote cartoon short -- with a much higher body count.


Jason Eisener's succinctly titled "Hobo With a Shotgun" is modeled after the cheap and cheesy, color-saturated vigilante exploitation pictures from the 1970s.

Like Robert Rodriguez's 2010 feature "Machete," Eisener's movie began as a joke, a fake trailer for a nonexistent film in 2007's double-bill spoof "Grindhouse."

"Blade Runner" and "The Hitcher" vet Rutger Hauer plays the sad and aging title character who hops off the rails in a typical American town where chaos and violence rule and evil flourishes.

The city is ruled by the Drake (Brian Downey), a lipsmacking, sadistic sociopath and his Droog-like sons Slick (Gregory Smith) and Ivan (Nick Bateman). They behead their own family members in impromtu public executions. They gleefully smash a man's head between bumper cars for fun. They enjoy their work.

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The hobo dreams of buying a lawn mower for $49.99. (Seriously, do we care why?) After Slick carves up the hobo's chest with a switchblade -- and threatens a pretty prostitute (Molly Dunsworth) whom the hobo mistakes for a teacher -- the hobo opts to buy a shotgun for the same $49.99.

Now we've got a party for justice. And the hobo, as reported by the local news media, dispenses it one shell at a time.

Eisener said in interviews that he wanted to recreate the forbidden movies of a bygone era, the sort of anti-mainstream films guys would only whisper about in school.

"Hobo With a Shotgun" is that. It takes place in a nebulous retro-world devoid of all moral authority, except for the enigmatic hobo who won't take it any more.

Eisener takes this concept way, way over the top, putting guns in a baby's face, frying a bus full of school kids with a flamethrower and using a lawn mower as a weapon of body-mass destruction in a way not seen since Peter Jackson's zombie thriller "Dead Alive."


There's not a lot of political subtext going on here, although the "Death to the Homeless" campaign orchestrated by the town's business leaders is fairly blunt.

Accompanied by a quirky score, hallucinogenically inspired wide-angle shots and some outrageous dialogue -- "They're going to write comic books about my hate crimes!" brags Ivan -- "Hobo" is still a joke, a parody of a deliberately offensive movie.

Plus, it's everything the trailer in "Grindhouse" promised.

"Hobo With a Shotgun" opens at the Music Box Theatre in Chicago. Not rated. 86 minutes. ★ ★ ★

What's wrong with us?

We watch as great motion pictures on television are used as backdrops for corporate logos and animated promos pitching upcoming programs. And we accept it.

We sit in quiet theaters while muffled explosions from an adjacent auditorium ruin our movie experience. And we do nothing.

We witness countless movies spoiled for us by trailers that tell us too much, reveal key plot twists and relate the best jokes. And we take no action.

We watch movies projected so darkly that we can barely make out what's going on. And we do not object.

We listen to marketers tell us how cool it is to experience motion pictures on screens the size of a postcard. And we believe them.

We see the great movies cut up for commercials, edited for time slots, censored for prime time, compressed to fit conventional TV screens -- and sometimes colorized. And we're OK with all of it.

Aren't we?

Ogden 6's makeover

Classic Cinemas reports that upgrades to its Ogden 6 Theatre in the Ogden Mall in Naperville have been completed. Each auditorium has had its "sound isolation system" improved. (Translation: not so much audio bleed from that noisy action film next door.) Plus, the washrooms now have a new three-color scheme: blue, red and plum. Hey, it's nice to know these things.

Reel Life mini-review: 'The Trip'

I can be quite amused when an entertainer imitates the voice and mannerisms of a famous person -- for a minute or two.

But being stuck in a car with two people constantly trying to outdo each other's celebrity imitations would be my idea of hell on earth.

And that's pretty much what Michael Winterbottom's road movie "The Trip" is all about: Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon as the Siskel and Ebert of dueling impressionists.

The British performers reunite with their director Winterbottom from "Tristam Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story" for a chatty, cross-country trip that combines "Sideways" with the TV comedy series "Copy Cats" (an all-impressionist show).

The premise is a simple one. Coogan, playing himself, gets a magazine job to conduct a restaurant tour of Northern England, sample the food and report back.

He admits to Brydon, playing himself, that he ranks as four or five on the list of people he's already asked to go, but can't.

Into the car they climb and off they go on an impressionist's odyssey with their dueling Sean Connerys, Michael Caines, Tom Jones, Ian McKellens, Peter Sellers.

Yes, the duo is talented. Brydon, who has a slight edge over Coogan in cloning voices, provides the film's best insight by demonstrating how Caine's blue-collar delivery has signifcantly changed since his "Alfie" days during the 1960s.

The personable pair chats in the car, on the street, in restaurants, on the phone. They're smart, glib and winning in a road movie that runs about 20 kilometers farther than it should.

People who can't get enough celebrity imitations will find "The Trip" extremely amusing.

Culinary fans may not. The best joke in "The Trip" is that although we see chefs preparing some of the most visually appealing food ever put on film -- Coogan and Brydon never eat it.

They're busy talking.

At least Sean Connery and Michael Caine are.

"The Trip" opens at the Century Centre Cinema in Chicago. Not rated; contains adult language. 111 minutes. ★ ★

• Daily Herald film critic Dann Gire's column runs Fridays in Time out!