I have a new review on basement jockeys. Be sure to stop by, or follow the link:
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UPDATE: Basement Jockeys is no longer in existence. Below is a reproduction of the original review, as it appeared on May 8, 2011.
Hobo with a Shotgun is a modern movie that would make exploitation cinema of yesteryear proud. Director Jason Eisener and writer John Davies prove themselves to be intimately familiar with this genre. The film boasts sharp contrast, brilliant shading, and an overall gritty feel; it could have come straight from the early 80’s. (In fact, there’s not one piece of technology past this decade—not even a cell phone—to be found in the movie.) The one-liners are excellent. The pacing takes its time, and allows at least half an hour for the audience to thoroughly hate the villains before our hero even gets his shotgun. The rampaging fights are great and the film gives us the abrupt grindhouse finish just after the climax. The violence is fun (albeit disturbing at the same time), offensive, and over-the-top, just like you’d expect from exploitation—but it is excessive.
I realize that violence is supposed to be excessive in exploitation film and its offspring (hence the “exploit” part). Let me explain what I mean, then, when I say that half of the violence in Hobo with a Shotgun is superfluous. The use of violence in film is to shock, and keep the audience interested. The violence of Hobo with a Shotgun only did that for about an hour or so. There was a lot of unnecessary background stuff that—if it served as anything other than entertainment—only affirmed things about certain characters that we already knew. Sometimes the violence was just straight up filler. This isn’t to say the first hour wasn’t entertaining. The real problem is that after that first hour, the film’s violence didn’t really shock anymore. That, in turn, made the bad-ass climax all the less bad-ass and climactic. Yes, it was gory and fun, but not as suspenseful as it would have been had the first hour not seasoned us with useless shocks, and instead focused on making us care about the characters. Some of the more horrific scenes needn’t have been so horrific had the useless violence been toned down. To be frank, the villains didn’t have much motivation for half of the stuff they were doing, other than being psychotic fear mongers, which in turn distanced them and their victims from the audience.
The film might have collapsed altogether because of this distance were it not for the stunning performance of Rutger Hauer, who was the only thing that kept me engaged in the movie. He portrayed so much through his expression that his character’s thoughts were voiced sans words. The pivotal scene when he chooses the shotgun over the lawnmower comes to mind in particular; his performance during that bit was heartbreaking yet inspirational. When the hobo did have a piece of dialog, Hauer’s guttural, forceful yet mumbling delivery mirrored the speech of someone who’d had little to no social contact the last few years of their life. The lines themselves followed a sort of disjointed sense, and proved to be some of the best dialog in the film (save certain cheesy one-liners).
Both Eisener and Davies proved themselves to be knowledgeable and talented with this film. But—unless they intend to only make homage gimmicks—they need to find a way to add depth to their films of the sort Hauer provided for Hobo with a Shotgun. I’m curious to see what they work on next—not necessarily eager, but definitely curious.