November 20, 2011 -- This silly, bloody vigilante action movie is so exaggerated, so over-the-top that it is over the hill. It has gone to seed and needs to be weeded. One thing about it, though. It has the best title of any movie I've seen this year. This grindhouse-style takes place in a city terrorized by hoodlums and a corrupt police force. The only hope for justice is a hobo with a shotgun who is cleaning up the streets, “one shell at a time.”
Rutger Hauer (“Batman Begins”) stars as the hobo, pushing his shopping cart along and minding his own business until he finally has seen enough. He steps in to stop the gang in charge of the town. At first, he makes a citizen's arrest of a hoodlum trying to rape a prostitute, Abby (Molly Dunsworth of “The 10th Circle”). He takes the criminal to the police, only to find out that the police are corrupt. He is mutilated and thrown into a dumpster. Abby takes him in because he saved her life. When the hobo recovers from his wounds, he does not leave town as ordered. He gets a shotgun and stays, making a stand against the criminals in charge of the town.
The movie has graphic violence from beginning to end. The hobo witnesses a decapitation murder committed in broad daylight in front of a crowd on a public street. From there, things get even more violent with shootings, stabbings, beatings, mutilations and more mayhem. One of the hoodlums kills a school bus load of children with a flame thrower. The hobo becomes a cult hero, until the hoodlums put out a bounty on him. People in the town are cowed into hunting down and killing the bums and hobos in the town.
Usually what happens in this kind of situation is that a vigilante committee is formed, the bad guys are confronted and run out of town. This actually happened in the “Hell on Wheels” early days of Laramie when outlaws took over the town. Vigilantes ran them out of town in 1868, and hung four of the outlaws they caught. This same pattern was repeated in many towns in the Old West. You would think that burning up a bus load of children would get people stirred up enough to run the bad guys out of town. Instead, they turn against the only guy who is standing up to the killers. It makes no sense.
The relationship between Abby and the Hobo is one of the nicer elements in a story overrun by ugliness elsewhere. The thug who runs the town, Drake (Brian Downey of “Snow Angels”) and his sons, Slick (Gregory Smith of “The Seeker: The Dark is Rising”) and Ivan (Nick Bateman) are all extremely evil, routinely engaging in beatings, rape and murder. Drake doesn't even like members of his own family. He murders his brother, Logan (Rob Wells of “The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day”) and one of his sons during the course of the film.
The look of the film is as over-the-top as the story. It is very contrasty, featuring a lot of very bright, primary colors, dominated by red, the color of blood. The gritty street scenes, shot in Nova Scotia, show a kind of apocalyptic urban decay, a town gone to seed in a very ugly way. Among the other regulars in the film are a guy filming fights between bums (Pasha Ebrahimi) and a pedophile dressed up as Santa Claus (Brian Jamieson).
The movie comes down to a final confrontation between the Hobo and Drake, including some road warrior types dressed up in some homemade armor, a weapon made out of a lawn mower, an ax and a bunch of vigilantes. It is very bloody and over-the-top. Did I mention this film is over the top? Yes, I think I did mention that once or twice. It is. Some critics are saying this is a better grindhouse movie than “Machette” or “Drive Angry” or “Bellflower.” I don't think so, but it probably is about as good as “Grindhouse,” or maybe a wee bit better. I've seen enough of these grindhouse style movies to know what director Jason Eisener is trying to do with this movie. I don't think he has succeeded very well, except for the name of the movie, which is awesome. He needed better characters and a better story. Better actors would have helped, too. This film rates a C.
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