Dutch Actor with Shotgun

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It's that time again, cinema fans. The time when I venture into Awix's territory and review a film I'm sure he wouldn't touch with a ten-foot pole. Because he has taste.

Dutch Actor with Shotgun, or, What Are They Drinking in Nova Scotia?

A snake made of celluloid

This first off: Do not watch this film in the dark. Do not watch it alone. Do not watch it with your gf (it is the date movie from hell). Do not watch it if – like me – your idea of cool entertainment is Romanian New Age Cinema.

In fact, I recommend you not watch it at all. Unless, of course, you're inured to schlock-horror films. Or if the name 'Rutger Hauer' exercises such a magical pull that you'll even sit through a bad Hungarian thriller (like I did), just to wonder what the mad Dutchman is up to this time.

Hobo with a Shotgun is the fault of some Canadians from Nova Scotia. The kind of people who work in video stores (the director did, although he and the writer worked in the same fast-food place while in high school) and spend their leisure time watching the sort of movies they aspire to make one day. Movies with lots of 'references' to other movies. Movies that require truckloads of Kensington gore1. Movies with lots of chainsaws. This movie doesn't have any chainsaws, thank goodness, but that's all they spared us. After watching this, you will never look at a manhole cover the same way again2.

It started as a joke (I think): Quentin Tarantino, who makes really weird movies that actually get seen, and somebody I'd never heard of named Robert Rodriguez made an homage to old, bad films, called Grindhouse. To publicise this dubious enterprise, they came up with the idea of inviting independent 'filmmakers' – I use the term loosely – to design faux film trailers in the same genre. There was, er, a contest. The winner of the trailer contest was a gem called, you guessed it, Hobo with a Shotgun. You can see it on Youtube. (Just google the title so I don't have to make Bel mad by linking to Youtube.) The entire opus was filmed in Nova Scotia in -30-degree weather, cost $150 Canadian, and starred a friend of the director's. The winner of this contest got to make his trailer into a feature film, and the rest is cinema history – Rutger Hauer showed up at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival plugging two movies he'd starred in. One was Hobo with a Shotgun. The other? Oh, some boring intellectual Swedish-Polish thing about some Dutch painter nobody's ever heard of3.

Expanding a 2-minute joke into a 90-minute movie is not much of a trick. Hollywood does this all the time. To view this one, you need:

  • Either 20 years' experience as a hard-core schlock horror fan, or
  • A thorough understanding of postmodern cinema criticism, plus
  • A stomach that is either
    • Made of cast iron, or
    • Completely empty.

I refuse to discuss the plot. Anyone who needs a plot does not understand these sorts of things, and is watching the wrong movie. Suffice it to say that everything is gritty, everybody is grungy, nobody is nice at all, and in between chopping each other into little pieces, absolutely everybody in the film feels sorry for themselves. (Probably because they want to kill their agents.) The theme could be summed up as 'the loss of innocence'. This event appears to have taken place sometime before the opening credits.

Rutger Hauer strides through the middle of this disaster, acting his heart out. His portrayal of a homeless man is spot-on honest and devoid of the otherwise ubiquitous self-pity. The gem piece in this nightmare of a film is his strange address to a roomful of newborn babies (don't ask)4. Hauer, filthy and armed with the eponymous shotgun, harangues the terminally cute infants, who are the only clean, sweet-smelling things in this wretched town that looks like it's in New Jersey somewhere5. Hauer tells them:

I used to be like you... a long time ago. All brand new and perfect. No mistakes, no regrets. People look at you and think of how wonderful your future will be. They want you to be something special... like a doctor or a lawyer. I hate to tell you this, but if you grow up here, you're more likely to wind up selling your bodies on the streets, or shooting dope from dirty needles in a bus stop. And if you're successful, you'll make money selling junk to crackheads. And don't think twice about killing someone's wife, because you won't even know it's wrong in the first place. Maybe... you'll end up like me. A hobo with a shotgun.

Now that is a message, people. Take it to heart.

The moral of this film review is: Pay attention to the hobo. If you grow up in a mental environment defined by schlock horror and bad North American shoot-'em-up cinema, you are likely to wind up selling your soul for a bag of popcorn. If you're successful, you'll make money selling junk movies to the brain-dead. You won't think twice about vehicular decapitation, because you won't even know it's wrong in the first place.

Or maybe...you'll end up like Rutger Hauer. An actor with a shotgun.

Fact and Fiction by Dmitri Gheorgheni Archive

Dmitri Gheorgheni

12.09.11 Front Page

Back Issue Page

1They had a special vehicle called the 'blood truck'. I am not making this up.2Elektra says I have to mention the weaponisation of the humble toaster combined with an ice-skate blade. She refers to this plot device as an 'innovative twist'. I live and learn.3Just in case you happen to be a boring intellectual, the film is called The Mill and the Cross, and Netflix hasn't got it yet, there being little demand for a film about Pieter Bruegel the Elder. Probably not enough explosions.4The reason it took this innovative piece of cinema so long to get made was that the auteurs insisted on their artistic vision. Seriously. They refused to take out the scene involving the immolation of a school bus full of children. One can only admire their professional integrity, I suppose.5Elektra can't believe they found anything that grungy in beautiful Canada.

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