Hobo with a Shotgun (Blu-ray) (2011)
Main Menu Audio
|Year Of Production||2011|
|RSDL / Flipper||No/No||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||Jason Eisener|
Paramount Home Entertainment
Russ Howard III
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||English DTS HD Master Audio 2.0|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.40:1|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.40:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||Yes|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
The double-feature experiment known as Grindhouse has so far produced or threatened to produce several films based on parts thereof, all of which have so far proven to be much better than I believe anything one chronic verbal masturbator credited with direction thereof could produce. We so far have Machete, a sequel that is planned for release later this year, and Hobo With A Shotgun.
One clue that a film is incredibly awesome is that I will compare it favourably or nicely with a little film called RoboCop. If you took all of the subtlety, restraint and nuance in acting out of RoboCop, and fed the entire crew some stimulating chemicals throughout production, you would get something that looks like Hobo With A Shotgun. It is as brutal and unrelenting in approach as the above description entails, but buried in there is a very good point about how far our world has fallen because of the manner in which we treat the most vulnerable and disadvantaged amongst us.
The titular hobo (Rutger Hauer) rides into town in the doorway of a cargo train. At first, his ambition is simply to scrounge up some change and buy a lawnmower to start a business with. But the acts of incredible violence he witnesses on the way in set the tone for the whole town. The main problem is that the town is ruled by a psychotic merchant who calls himself The Drake (Brian Downey) and his sons, Slick (Gregory Smith) and Ivan (Nick Bateman).
After some begging and witnessing of the town's horrors, and through means that should make anyone sick to watch, the hobo manages to get his hands on fifty dollars. During this process, he also makes friends with a prostitute who tells him her name is Abby (Molly Dunsworth). Since fifty dollars is enough to buy the mower from a local pawnshop, he brings this money there just in time to witness a burglary. Deciding that he has had enough, he uses the money to pay for a shotgun, and proceeds to kill just about everyone he catches red-handed victimising weaker individuals in the town. This obviously rattles The Drake and his sons, as it threatens their dictatorship over the town. So through a series of increasingly outlandish means, The Drake attempts to silence the hobo once and for all. The results are ridiculous, silly, idiotic, and overall just hilarious. Almost none of the gore looks vaguely realistic, the question of why the national guard is not called in response to the brothers' actions is constantly provoked, and it obviously never occurred to the director to ask the actors to take it down a notch.
These are just a few of the things that make the film so incredibly awesome.
The film is presented in the aspect ratio of 2.35:1 within a 1920 by 1080 progressive window.
Although this transfer is not as sharp as one would expect of a similar vintage film, at its peak it has a level of detail that one can show to friends and say "this is why I no longer watch DVD". Rutger Hauer's beard in close-ups looks authentically hobo-like (in spite of his Dutch heritage, the man really has not aged well), and one scene in which the hobo eats glass for money is even more revolting because of the detail. Shadow detail is sufficient for the purposes of the film. Noise is a mild issue in some shots, largely because of the cheap production.
The colours in the transfer are literally all over the place. This is not an issue mainly because this wacky colour scheme is a deliberate choice on the part of the production. Or at least, with the way colours bloom or desaturate (or both) during key sequences, one would hope so. Sequences in which old televisions are filmed show dot crawls and mild cross-colourations that combine with a moire, but filmed-television sequences are the only place where this effect occurs.
The cameraman's style in this film is frequently awful (on purpose, I hope), so effects that resemble telecine wobble occur with minor frequency. This issue aside, no film-to-video artefacts occur in this transfer. The transfer is encoded in AVCHD, with no real compression artefacts evident. Film artefacts are sometimes visible, in a style that is typical of that grindhouse aesthetic the production was aiming for.
Now we come to one of the issues that makes me unable to give this disc an unqualified recommendation. No subtitles of any kind are provided with this transfer. This becomes a serious issue for a reason I will get to in due course.
The other issue with this disc is the audio transfer. It is not bad, per se, but it is not exactly good, either. One soundtrack is provided on this disc, the original English dialogue in DTS HD Master Audio 2.0, which my receiver tried to apply Pro-Logic II treatment to. I watched the film twice. Once with Poo Logic II enabled, wishing I could have it turned off as a default. Once with Poo Logic II disabled.
One reason I favour lossless or uncompressed audio is because it preserves that sense of space between dialogue, Foley, and music. Whilst that space is preserved in this transfer, the lack of discrete LFE or surround channels does the dialogue no favours. There are several utterances, especially by Hauer, throughout the film that are nearly unintelligible. This is a problem because one of the most memorable speeches in Hauer's career (which, with Blade Runner as a comparison, is saying quite a lot) is compromised by it. Fortunately, no real problems with audio sync occur.
The music in this film is credited to no less than three different people. These are, in the IMDB listing order, Adam Burke, Darius Holbert and Russ Howard III. The music is very effective, with themes that are suitably creepy, intense, and terrifying. There are moments when the music apes that of other films, but it does this in a very effective and scene-appropriate fashion. Overall, the music is a great enhancement of the onscreen action.
The surround channels were not specifically encoded into this soundtrack. My receiver puts some signal through them, but this only has the effect of making it like the entire soundtrack is coming from three and a half different sets of speakers. If your receiver has what I like to call Poo Logic enabled as a matter of course, I recommend turning it off.
The subwoofer was also not specifically encoded into the soundtrack. Small amounts are redirected to it from the music and gunshots, but it is not exactly well integrated.
|Surround Channel Use|
A small handful of extras are presented on this disc.
The menu is based around a cut-down version of the theatrical poster. Navigation is straightforward once one gets used to the way-too-subtle tonal difference with the highlight colour in the main options.
At forty-three minutes and twenty-nine seconds, this featurette is obviously intended to be the main insight into the behind-the-scenes story of the film. The story of how the makers of the film got the green light to make it is even more interesting than the film itself. The featurette appears to be presented in 1080i with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. I actually recommend at least one viewing. Two if you, like me, have any interest in the science of filmmaking.
A total of seven featurettes, with a “Play All” option in the submenu. Total running time is five minutes and eleven seconds. A disappointment after the previous featurette.
Three minutes, twenty seconds of footage that the makers shot in order to test what different cameras would do in response to certain things. Meh.
Now this is more like it. When the “Play All” option is selected, we are treated to a total of six minutes and fifteen seconds of footage that the makers deemed unsuitable for the final cut. Included is an alternate ending in which Abby is made part of The Plague, and a montage of deleted footage set to music. In all cases, I think the director made the right decision when he cut them. The montage, in spite of having very little actual production audio, is by some road the most effective footage included here. (Although I have to admit, any scene in which landlords are exposed for the parasites that they are… ah, never mind.)
Labelled "Director's Red Band Trailer" in the menu, this 2.40:1 with DTS HD Master Audio 2.0 (like all good trailers should have!) trailer lasts only eighty-one seconds, but gives an awesome impression of what the film is about.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
And here is where it all falls down, and I feel ripped off (again). The Region A version of this disc includes subtitle tracks in both English for the Hearing Impaired and Spanish, and 5.1 channel audio. And then we get into the extras that were left out, such as more of the Grindhouse contest winner trailers. The Region A disc is region-locked, but this is absolutely the last time I am going to simply accept that. In the Region to Region comparison stakes, this disc is a major loser, and the entire Blu-ray Consortium deserves a combat boot in an uncomfortable place for it.
Unconfirmed (so far) reports have it that a version of this disc is available in the UK that is similarly better than the local product. Being a UK disc, it would have the same Region code. Pending confirmation of the UK disc's specifications (tips concerning reliable reviews of said disc would be much appreciated), it appears that the UK disc may well be the one of choice.
Hobo With A Shotgun is a difficult film to summarise. It is funny, at times sweet, horrifically violent, and a powerful metaphor for the world we actually live in. The saddest thing about it is probably that it would not take much degeneration for some societies (this means you, self-loving ruralistic Australia) to resemble the burg shown here. I think it also means that I am a weirdo since I found Molly Dunsworth's character more relatable than Rutger Hauer's. All kidding aside, however, I need to make this clear to Hollywood et al: This world needs more films like this. Unfortunately, I have some serious hesitations about recommending the disc it has been presented on, especially in light of what Region A gets by comparison.
The video transfer is good, true to an intentionally ugly aesthetic, and frequently more pleasant to look at than the film itself.
The audio transfer is okay, but an extra couple of channels would have done it no end of favours.
The extras are small in number, but one of them is very worthwhile for a number of reasons.
|DVD||Panasonic DMP-BD45, using HDMI output|
|Display||Panasonic TH-P50U20A. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.|
|Speakers||Yamaha NS-45 Front Speakers, Yamaha NS-90 Rear Speakers, Wharfedale Xarus 1000 Rear Speakers, Yamaha NSC-120 Centre Speaker, Wharfedale Diamond SW150 Subwoofer|