Video Verdict: ‘Hobo With a Shotgun’

Rutger Hauer plays the title character in “Hobo With a Shotgun,” director Jason Eisener’s tribute to the grindhouse genre.

It’s a slow week on home video, as no major theatrical releases are rolling onto DVD or Blu-ray. Still, there are a few new choices, including an independent grindhouse homage starring Rutger Hauer.


Hobo With a Shotgun

2 stars (out of four)
Unrated
Magnet
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray

Directors Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez put exploitation films in the spotlight with 2007’s “Grindhouse,” a stylish homage to B movies. “Hobo With a Shotgun” has its roots in that project, having started as a short, fake trailer submitted to the Grindhouse Trailer Contest sponsored by Rodriquez and the SXSW Film Festival. After the short won that contest, writer John Davies and director Jason Eisener, got the opportunity to turn it into a feature-length film, and they nabbed veteran actor Rutger Hauer for the title role.

Like the two movies that anchored “Grindhouse” – Rodriguez’s “Planet Terror” and Tarantino’s “Death Proof” – “Hobo” is pure B movie schlock, a fact that both helps and hurts it. As a tribute to exploitation films, “Hobo” is an undeniable success. The unrated movie is violent, ridiculously bloody and top-loaded with profanity. It’s also relentlessly dumb, and therein lies the rub. There’s only so much excess and intentional stupidity an audience can handle.

Rodriguez has proven himself expert at cranking out exploitation film tributes, somehow developing a perfect mix of violence, humor and plot. Eisener attempts to walk the same tightrope but isn’t as skillful, despite a remarkable performance from Hauer. He plays a homeless man who becomes so outraged at the violence he witnesses on the streets that he turns vigilante.

As written, Hauer’s character is little more than a caricature, but nuances in the actor’s performance offer a surprising amount of depth. That makes the movie better than it might have been, but not good enough.

DVD and Blu-ray extras include making-of features and two audio commentaries, one with Eisener and Hauer and one with Eisener and Davies.

ALSO OUT THIS WEEK

“Of Gods and Men”: Reality-based French drama about eight Christian monks who refuse to leave their North African monastery even after an Islamic fundamentalist group becomes a threat to their safety. Directed by Xavier Beauvois, the film won the Grand Prix at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival. Presented in French and Arabic with English subtitles.

“13 Assassins”: Asian drama about a group of samurai who band together to battle an evil lord in feudal Japan. Directed by Takashi Miike (“Ichi the Killer,” “Audition”). Presented in Japanese with English subtitles.

“The Cape” – The Complete Series: NBC’s short-lived superhero drama is getting its final hurrah on DVD. The series focuses on Vince Faraday (David Lyons), an honest cop who is framed for murder and then seemingly killed during a manhunt. Knowing the world thinks he’s dead, Faraday decides to go into hiding and continue battling crime as a caped hero. Keith David, Summer Glau, James Frain and Jennifer Ferrin also star.

“Transformers – The Japanese Collection – Headmasters”: This Japanese animated series is making its North American DVD debut. It focuses on a new breed of Transformers known as Headmasters, and it includes the original Japanese soundtrack with English subtitles.

“The Frankenstein Syndrome”: This modern re-imagining of Mary Shelly’s “Frankenstein” focuses on a research team that develops a serum capable of bringing the dead back to life. Tiffany Shepis, Louis Mandylor, Patti Tindall, Scott Anthony Leet and Ed Lauter star. Written and directed by Sean Tretta.

“Victorious” – Season One, Volume One: First 10 episodes of the Nickelodeon sitcom about a teen singer (Victoria Justice) attending a prestigious performing arts high school. Elizabeth Gillies, Daniella Monet, Leon Thomas III, Avon Jogia and Ariana Grande also star.

“Bloodrayne – The Third Reich”: Director Uwe Boll’s third movie in the video game-inspired “Bloodrayne” franchise. Natassia Malthe stars as Rayne, a half-human, half vampire warrior facing off against undead Nazis during World War II.

“Best of Sesame Street Spoofs!” – Volumes 1 and 2: The “Sesame Street” educational series has a long history of taking on pop culture and spoofing TV shows. This collection gathers classic and recent skits that do just that. Included are spoofs of “Hill Street Blues,” “Masterpiece Theatre,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Mad Men,” “True Blood” and more.

“America – The Story of Us” independent releases: “The Story of Us” is a massive, 12-hour documentary series that aired on History, and it is already available as part of a complete set. For those interested in only portions of the program, A&E Home Entertainment has broken it into six pieces being sold as individual DVDs. Available are: “Rebels,” about early settlers and the American revolution; “Westward,” focused on our western expansion; “The Civil War,” which looks at the war and the transcontinental railroad; “Boom,” about American industrialization; “Rise of a Superpower,” focused on the Great Depression and our transition into World War II; and “Millennium,” which looks at our move into the 21st century.

– Forrest Hartman is an independent film critic whose byline has appeared in some of the nation’s largest publications. E-mail him at forrest@forresthartman.com

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