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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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The Ultimate DVD Geek

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon