Sunday, September 25, 2011
If it does nothing else, I hope Hobo With A Shotgun (2011) puts to rest any critical reservations with regard to the self-conscious reworking of genre engaged in by Quentin Tarantino and his comperes. That layer of meta-comment and irony is exactly what makes QT's films worth re-watching, thinking about and discussing, whereas his templates are cinematic potato chips, to be quickly consumed without expectation of nourishment or indeed any lasting effect other than faint nausea.
The proof is that when a purer, more authentic hommage to 80s trash comes along, like HWAS it is quickly evident that it is utterly lacking the kind of vision of resonance that keeps it continually engaging. Yes, the premise is unbelievable, and in a sloppy way that no self-respecting would tolerate. A guy who dispenses justice with a gun has to be good at it and smart or someone will shoot him. That is the whole point of a great film like The Gunfighter. The use of a gun is not a resolution, but the beginning of a string of questions, both narratively and morally. I mean, come on, anybody could shoot this hobo in the back. Yes, the villains are idiots and buffoons (which also weakens the film, because although they are cruel and ruthless, they could be defeated by a reasonably crafty group of 7th graders).
So the makers of Hobo had the good sense to hire Rutger Hauer, an actor of presence and resonance, but not enough sense to engage that resonance in any meaningful way. He just stomps and snorts his way through some poorly staged violence, with the cheapest, most unconvincing blood gags this side of your neighbor kid's backyard videos just because. And to top it off, the film pretends to move toward a grand apocalyptic confrontation just peters out with a few more feeble gun blasts. No gigantic blood orgy, no jeopardy for the protagonist, no reversals or surprises, and no scaling-up of the conflict.
Frankly, if a film revisiting a genre of an earlier generation is not going to be mega- (like Spielberg) it has to be meta- (like Tarantino). Otherwise, why not just turn to the originals, which are readily available, and have the advantage of being pure, authentic and unself-conscious. What I'm trying to say kids, is if you really think you want to see HWAS, just skip it, and rent a Billy Jack movie.
And by the way, how come the rising generation still resists Westerns? They are obviously still looking for a way to tell stories about communities that have no super-structure of law and civil order, a community in the process of forming its ideas of good, evil and justice without too much history to encumber it. So they have to invent post-apocalyptic scenarios, whereas as the Western template is ready-made and would permit a filmmaker to have a dialogue with his predecessors (and not reinvent the wheel). It is the perfect stage on which to explore mythos. Perhaps they are afraid that the Western has a lot of rules they don't know or want to know or want to bother to master. That should be no limitation. After all, the Italians came along in the 1960's and threw all the rules out the window, keeping only the landscape, and even altering that landscape to a Spanish desert instead of the Southwestern mesas.
Seriously, I can't wait for the Quentin Tarantino Western.