Thrown Back, by Daniel Bergamini
Typically I like to give films that leave me feeling indifferent a second chance, as the second viewing may reveal different and more interesting aspects of the film. In the case of Jason Eisener’s Hobo With A Shotgun, I feel no need to do so. The overall feeling I had coming from this film was a combination of boredom, frustration and most of all confusion. To me, that combination of negative feelings are possibly the worst a viewer can have as you are left knowing the potential a film had. That being said, this film is not bad. It’s worse; this film is mediocre.
The film had a unique history of development, as it was original created as a mock-trailer for Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriquez’ Grindhouse. This unique development is unfortunately quite clear on screen, as what made for a great mock-trailer, makes for a half-baked feature film. Like last year’s Machete, another film based on a mock-trailer from Grindhouse, this film is left somewhere between being a spoof and a tribute of grind-house films. The fact the film seems unsure of what it wants to be is what makes it so frustrating.
Last year’s Machete was not successful as the film did not feel like a tribute, instead it felt like a spoof from someone who had never seen a true grind-house film. This is something I thought Hobo With A Shotgun would change, and from the opening shots I was sure it was on the right track. The film opens with a pitch-perfect credit sequence as we see the hero, played by Rutger Hauer, watching the Canadian farm land go by as he rides the rails into the big city. From the faux-Technicolor look, to the soundtrack, the film feels like a true grind-house film. That is, unfortunately, not long-lived.
The extreme violence of the film is obviously a must in the genre, yet it is often the violence that is the film’s downfall. As the film feels confused, the violence is played for entertainment, yet often feels mean-spirited. And while this would not be a problem if the film was attempting to be a real entry into the grind-house cannon, it is its mocking tone that leaves it feeling out of place. To Eisener’s credit, the film is certainly more in line with true grind-house fare than Machete, yet the film still feels like a parody from someone who either dislikes that type of filmmaking or has yet to see a real grind-house film.
As I mentioned before, while overall the film fails to rise above mediocrity, it certainly has some very impressive elements. Rutger Hauer delivers a very entertaining performance as the hobo in question, and does not wink at the camera. It is the winking at the camera that is the problem with so many of these films, and is an issue here. Had the film, for example, decided to give in to the issues that grind-house films have, such as mistakes and editing errors, the tone would have been slightly more acceptable. However, it doesn’t and the tone is all over the place, as it is both too polished yet not serious enough.
In my mind there are only two films which successfully pay tribute to the exploitation genre, Tarantino’s Deathproof and Scott Sander’s Black Dynamite. Tarantino’s film was successful as it was not winking at the camera, it was instead, simply a serious tribute to exploitation films. Black Dynamite on the other hand, fully gave into the mistakes and sensibilities of the blacksploitation genre, which made the film a very entertaining, yet authentic parody of the genre. Jason Eisener’s Hobo With A Shotgun, falls somewhere in the middle, leaving it ultimately unsatisfying.