Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Rutger Hauer: King of the Hobosplotation Film

Rutger Hauer will complete his Hobo Trilogy this year with the release of “Hobo with a Shotgun.” This will complete his trilogy that began twenty five years ago with “The Hitcher” and will buoyed by 1994’s “Surviving the Game”. This trilogy showed an acting and personal arch for Hauer.

1986’s “The Hitcher” was a thriller in which a young, handsome Hauer played a quiet hitchhiker who is picked up by cross country driver C. Thomas Howell. This showed him in what would end up being the type cast he fell into. He played the man with no name who sought to destroy other people seemingly without reason. This paralleled the perception of how the homeless were viewed in Ronald Reagan’s mid 80s America. They were considered violent outcasts who would destroy good people and America itself if we let them. The often forgotten part of this was the large number of people who were removed from Psychiatric Institutions and had nowhere else to go.

1994’s “Surviving the Game”, which also stared Ice-T, kept Hauer as the preditor, but now he was hunting homeless veteran Ice-T. Both of these parts have the hobo be “chosen” by the successful person. In the Hitcher, Howell picked up the stranger. In Game, Hauer gives a tryout to Ice-T by offering him $100 if he can run on a treadmill for 30 minutes. When you are hungry, tired and cold you will do anything for money. In addition, to the $100 Ice-T unknowingly “won” the right to be hunted by Hauer, John C. McGinley and F. Murry Abraham. Unfortunately, the only thing they killed was Abraham’s career. This eerily parallels the “Bum Fights” that people would organize in Bill Clinton’s Internet Bubble Funded 90s. In an era where money was considered accomplishments, and overnight financial success was confused with real accomplishment, a popular sport was for people to pay two homeless people to fight for $10. Winner takes all. Fortunately, with the turn of the century we abandoned that for Mixed Martial Arts.

The Trilogy concludes with “Hobo with a Shotgun.” Hauer is showing his age. He made his film debut almost forty years ago. He is playing a Hobo who is frustrated with a city run by corrupt police and evil criminals. He finally has enough and becomes a vigilant with; yep you guessed it, a shotgun. This is reflective of 2000s America. Governors are arrested for corruption. People argue that the President was not born in the United States. (Those people are completely insane, but they are still a voice.) Crime is on the rise. People want to change things and violence is seemingly the easiest way to solve this problem. It is the path of least resistance and least personal commitment to real lasting change. Unfortunately, that is America in 2011.

In all cases, The Hobo wins. He either kills the hunters or kills what is inside someone that makes us human. In all cases, the hobo accomplishes his mission. Hauer’s mission is to be a working actor. These films are low level entertainment. It captures your attention for 2 hours and will eventually become hangover TV on TBS on Saturday afternoons. The Hitcher and Surviving the Game made under $10,000,000 combined. I doubt Hobo with a Shotgun will break that total. These are workable movies. They cost under $1,000,000 and they make money. Rutger Hauer is a better actor than this. He has made some outstanding films, Blade Runner and the great Escape from Sobibor, but he is essentially a working actor. He makes two to three films a year, most of which you never hear of. He creates somewhat entertaining films and the studio makes money. This is how most of us survive. We find something we are good at. We make enough money to pay our bills. If we are lucky, we like our jobs 8 out of 10 days. Do we change the world? Nope. Are we the best in the world at what we do? Only one person is. We end up with good careers and if we are lucky great lives. Hauer seems to have done it. He has become a working actor. He has never been nominated for an acting award and never stared in a blockbuster movie. He has had a very good career and all jokes aside more people will watch Hobo with a Shotgun than anything any of us will do this year. Mr. Hauer. Mission Accomplished.

1 comment:

  1. I much enjoyed this, though I'm not sure I see the titular hitcher as a hobo. I do agree with the overall arc of your argument, though, which I might describe as "perceptions of 'the American outsider' in films that happen to star Rutger Hauer."

    Similar in vein is 1993's "Hard Target," where homeless guys are also being hunted down. In "Hard Target" the homeless need an advocate; in the Ice-T movie it sounds like the homeless guy turns into a worthy opponent to Hauer's villain; by 2011 Hauer's hobo is confidently taking care of business.