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Douglas Pratt

By Douglas Pratt

DVD Geek: Hobo With a Shotgun

Of the two possibilities open to the filmmakers who chose to call their movie, Hobo with a Shotgun, the first was to make a realistic revenge thriller of some sort, like the dozens of others that carry the same basic premise, which would be that a villain in a position of power underestimates the resolve of the seemingly insignificant hero.  The second possibility, however, is the one the filmmakers actually went with in the Magnolia Home Entertainment release, which is to concoct a wildly exaggerated gore spectacle and assume that the title is so precise that viewers will be in on the joke from the start.  The 2011 feature is a deliberate send up of exploitation films from the Eighties.  The bad guys are dressed like Tom Cruise in Risky Business, and there are many other visual allusions to Seventies and Eighties exploitation features, accompanied by a purposefully grating, era-appropriate electronic musical score.  The technology depicted in the film is also of the Eighties.  As for the plot, well it does follow the expected template.  Hauer’s character wanders into a town where anarchy seems to reign, and when he has the temerity to defend a prostitute from abuse, he incurs the wrath of the powers that be.  The performances are as exaggerated as the gore, and the narrative holds no surprises.  Running 86 minutes, some viewers may enjoy the grotesquely silly tone, but most will be disappointed, especially since it appears that a serious movie, featuring the nicely aged Hauer, could have been a great deal more satisfying.

The picture is presented in letterboxed format only, with an aspect ratio of about 2.35:1 and an accommodation for enhanced 16:9 playback.  The film’s colors have an unusually strong, Technicolor-like glow (meant to evoke Dario Argento’s old Technicolor thrillers) that becomes a deliberate part of the image design, though the effect ends up feeling more like one more absurd, dead-end idea than something intrinsic to any potential artistic or emotional achievement.  There are times, as well, when the colors become so intense that the image gets a little fuzzy.  The 5.1-channel Dolby Digital sound gives the shotgun a reasonable kick, but with that musical score you really aren’t going to want to raise the volume too greatly.  There are optional Spanish subtitles and there is English captioning.  Featured as well are 106 minutes of production clips, with an emphasis on executing the gore effects, which can be accessed during the film’s unspooling when prompts appears on the screen, or separately in the Special Features with a ‘Play All’ option. 

There are two commentary tracks, both of which feature the young director, Jason Eisener.  On the first track, he sits with Hauer and they talk all about how they roped the actor into the film and about what went on during the shoot.  Often, Eisener was in a bit over his head and they readily admit that Hauer would contribute, giving advice to the other actors, stepping up to do a stunt and otherwise making himself useful beyond the call of duty.  Hauer also acknowledges that the film has revitalized his career.

On the second track, Eisener is joined by writer John Davies, producer Rob Cotterill and a friend of Eisener’s who was the inspiration for Hauer’s part, David Brunt (a speculative trailer that Eisener made for the film, using Brunt as the star, is part of the production featurettes).  The three filmmakers go into more detail about how locations were secured, how various effects were achieved, what the cast was like, and why their girlfriends were willing to appear topless in the film.  Brunt is quite a character and you can hear echoes of Hauer’s performance in the way that he speaks and what he chooses to focus upon.  He seems generally tickled by all of the attention, and takes it in his stride.

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“Well, actually, of that whole group that I call the post-60s anti-authority auteurs, a lot of them came from television. Peckinpah’s the only one whose television work represents his feature work. I mean, like the only one. Mark Rydell can direct a really good episode of ‘Gunsmoke’ and Michael Ritchie can direct a really good episode of ‘The Big Valley,’ but they don’t necessarily look like The Candidate. But Peckinpah’s stuff, even the scripts he wrote that he didn’t even direct, have a Peckinpah feel – the way I think there’s a Corbucci West – suggest a Peckinpah West. That even in his random episodes that he wrote for ‘Gunsmoke’ – it’s right there.”
~ Quentin Tarantino

“The thought is interrupted by an odd interlude. We are speaking in the side room of Casita, a swish and fairly busy Italian bistro in Aoyama – a district of Tokyo usually so replete with celebrities that they spark minimal fuss. Kojima’s fame, however, exceeds normal limits and adoring staff have worked out who their guest is. He stops mid-sentence and points up towards the speakers, delighted. The soft jazz that had been playing discreetly across the restaurant’s dark, hardwood interior has suddenly been replaced with the theme music from some of Kojima’s hit games. Harry Gregson-Williams’ music is sublime in its context but ‘Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots’ is not, Kojima acknowledges, terribly restauranty. He pauses, adjusting a pair of large, blue-framed glasses of his own design, and returns to the way in which games have not only influenced films, but have also changed the way in which people watch them. “There are stories being told [in cinema] that my generation may find surprising but which the gamer generation doesn’t find weird at all,” he says.
~ Hideo Kojima