Monday, April 04, 2011

The World Could Use a Hobo With a Shotgun

Rarely will one ever find a film as distinctly Canadian as Hobo With a Shotgun.

It isn't the kind of film normally associated with Canada. It seems to take a certain comedic thrill in the brutality of its violence; not the kind of quality normally associated with a Canadian film.

But Hobo With a Shotgun, based on a mock trailer produced for the Quentin Tarantino/Robert Rodriguez joint double-feature Grindhouse, comes with tons of Canadian street cred. Filmed in Dartmouth Nova Scotia, the film features cameos by George Stroumboulopoulos and a trailer park boy, and even features a bizarre reference to The Raccoons.

The film features Rutger Hauer as the titular Hobo, who goes unnamed throughout the film -- much like The Bride in Tarantino's Kill Bill, and Sergio Leone's "Blondie", the man with no name.

The hobo is a simple transient, riding the rails into Hopetown. Hope has long since abandoned Hopetown, and the hobo has little ambition to bring it back. His dreams are simple: he wants to earn $50 so he can buy a used lawnmower from a pawnshop.

But when he witnesses Slick (Gregory Smith) accosting prostitute Abby (Molly Dunsworth), the hobo cannot simply let things pass. Considering that he had already witnessed Slick and his brother Ivan (Nick Bateman) committing a murder, he should have known better.

Slick and Ivan are sons of Drake (Brian Downey), the cartoonish villain who has corrupted nearly every corner of Hopetown, transforming it instead into the dystopic "Fucktown".

Pushed too far by the filth of Fucktown, the hobo turns in his humble dreams of mowing lawns for a living for a new way of life -- as a hobo with a shotgun.

He quickly begins to clear out Fucktown's criminal underbelly with extreme prejudice. Infuriated that anyone would so forcefully cut into his action, Drake declares open season not only on the hobo, but on all hobos. He threatens to kill all of Hopetown's children unless the citizens take up arms against the city's homeless population and kills them all.

The desperation to protect their children turns the citizens of Hopetown into vicious murderers.

Of all the residents of Hopetown, only one man has the courage to stand up to the denizens of Fucktown: the titular hobo with a shotgun.

It takes some stretch of the imagination to claim that Hobo With a Shotgun has a coherent theme. But if it actually had one, it would be the corrosive effect that desperation has on human society.

Left to their own devices by police who are in cahoots with a man who mass murders children, the citizens of Hopetown simply turn all of their rage on the most helpless people of all: homeless people who have no one to stand up for them.

Yet when crime is allowed to deepy take root, it isn't ordinary citizens who actually suffer the most. It's the most helpless and defenseless members of society: the people who sleep in the very streets where these crimes are allowed to run so rampant.

Certainly, not every homeless person is an innocent victim. Some of them get themselves into the situations they're in by getting too deep into a drug habit. Others are themselves involved in crime in order to survive.

But among the homeless population of any city are some truly innocent victims. For one thing, the homeless population features a disproportionate number of people with mental illnesses. Many homeless teenagers on Canadian streets are not runaways, as many people would believe, but children kicked out by parents unwilling to care for them.

When drug- and crime-related violence overwhelms city streets, its these people who are least equipped to cope with it, and least equipped to protect themselves. They're the unseen victims of crime.

There are things Canadians can do to help: the first is to either support local homeless shelters and youth emergency shelters. If you can't donate your money, donate your time.

The other -- perhaps even more important -- thing is to not allow a single crime to pass unreported on the streets of Canadian neighbourhoods. And if police are unresponsive to reports, to be active pressuring police to tackle crime anywhere and everywhere it rears its head.

The title of this blogpost is actually facetious. The last thing the world actually needs is a vigilante hobo with a shotgun. But there are some places in Canada where strong citizen engagement is going to be necessary to prevent that kind of bloodbath.

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