Ray Pride is Newcity film critic and a contributing editor of Filmmaker magazine. He is also a photographer: his history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” in words and images is forthcoming. Previews on Twitter (twitter.com/chighostsigns) as well as daily photography on Instagram: instagram.com/raypride. Twitter: twitter.com/RayPride. (Photo: Jorge Colombo.)
“Here was a man,” Travis Bickle once intoned, “who would… not… take it… any more.” “Hobo with a Shotgun” is not “Taxi Driver.” But here is a man: the once-gorgeous Rutger Hauer, now 67, grizzled yet tautly handsome, and basking in a role more extreme than Roy Batty in “Blade Runner,” in the league with those he embodied in his eager youth for Paul Verhoeven (“Turkish Delight,” “Soldier of Orange,” “Spetters”). How much of a vagrant is this hobo? He even totes a bindle on a cane on a freight car into an apocryphal Nova Scotia city by a lake, under 1970s-style main titles. Shades of Kurosawa’s “Yojimbo,” perhaps. Or perhaps not. “Hobo With A Shotgun,” the bad-taste sensation of Sundance and SXSW 2011, as well as VOD in the late weeks of spring, comes to the Music Box for two weeks of midnight shows. Its genesis was a $150 short by young Halifax filmmaker Jason Eisener, which won a competition and was attached to 180 prints for a Canadian run of “Grindhouse,” a movie that boasted fake trailers of its own that didn’t wear out their welcome. Does this vigilante exploitationer with the thuddingly exquisite title wear out its welcome in eighty-six minutes? It depends on your tolerance for blunt-force Troma: sickening splatter and cartoonish behavior run amuck in a dystopian city by a lake in smoke and flames. (Decapitation, bared breasts, a “Sweet Hereafter”-style schoolbus filled with children who—golly!—get burned alive.) The hero’s obstacle: the criminals who stand in the way of his dreams of becoming a landscaper. Never attaining the offhand wit of “Death Race 2000”-era Roger Corman New World Pictures, “Hobo” still has a very deep Canadian streak of bad manners and crap production design. (“I’m gonna sleep in your bloody corpse tonight!” sounds weirdly polite the way it’s delivered here.). What got me through was thinking not about how “Hobo” isn’t an ideal simulacrum of grindhouse crud, but how it succeeds as something rank and foul from north of the 49th, a movie that cannot help but brandish its extreme Canadian-ness, especially in its unbridled eagerness to please with relentless monstrous transgressions. Still, of films drawn from “Grindhouse”-associated trailers, “Machete” had a lot more on its mind and its bloody hands. And who will be pleased? Those who long to ooh and aww and yiiiiiii in the company of like souls at midnight on Southport Avenue. The cheekily lurid look—hot-hot colors and hyper grain—comes from cinematographer Karim Hussain. (The director hopefully cites as influences Walter Hill’s “The Warriors,” Gary Sherman’s “Vice Squad” and the early grime-crimes of Sam Raimi and Peter Jackson.) While Canada has an estimable B-movie history, “Hobo” is co-produced by Niv Fichman, the veteran producer whose CV includes higher-toned productions like François Girard’s “Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould,” Guy Maddin’s “The Saddest Music In The World,” Olivier Assayas’ “Clean,” and Fernando Meirelles’ “Blindness.” With Gregory Smith, Robb Wells, Brian Downey, Jeremy Akerman, Nick Bateman, Molly Dunsworth, Mark A. Owen, Michael Ray Fox, David Brunt. 86m. Widescreen. (Ray Pride) “Hobo With A Shotgun” plays midnight shows at the Music Box June 17-18 and June 24-25.