Magnolia Pictures // 2011 // 86 Minutes // Unrated
Reviewed by Judge Michael Rubino (Retired) // July 11th, 2011
"You and me are going on a car ride to hell...and you're riding shotgun!"
I don't know what you were expecting from a movie called "Hobo with a Shotgun." Some meaningful dialogue about the country's current unemployment woes? Maybe a little commentary on gun control, a la Shoot 'Em Up? Or perhaps just some wink-and-nod star vehicle like that other grindhouse-trailer-turned-feature-film?
Well, there's none of that here. But there is plenty of blood and homeless people.
Rutger Hauer (Blade Runner) plays a nameless vagrant who rides the rails into a dystopian town gripped by violence. All he wants to do is buy a pawned lawnmower and start a new life for himself cutting grass. His entrepreneurial dreams are swiftly dashed by the ruthless hands of The Drake (Brian Downey, Lexx), a crime boss who runs the town with his two demented sons, Slick and Ivan (Gregory Smith and Nick Bateman).
But a hobo can only take so much drugs, rape, and debauchery before he grabs himself a shotgun. With the help of a hooker with a heart of gold (Molly Dunsworth), the hobo is going to wipe the bad guys off the streets...and "sleep in their bloody carcasses..."
Hobo with a Shotgun originated from a Grindhouse trailer contest held before the Tarantino/Rodriguez double feature was released in 2007.
My expectations for Hobo with a Shotgun were fairly reasonable: be a better grindhouse movie than the Grindhouse movies. Death Proof and Planet Terror were good, but they were so self-satisfied and smirky that they didn't feel like throwbacks. They were more like parodies. Hobo doesn't have any stunt casting or missing reels, and it's not trying to be connected with those other guys. Instead, it's gritty, outrageous, exploitative, and, most of all, takes this ironically enjoyable genre pretty seriously.
That's not to say Hobo isn't hilarious in its own right; first-time director Jason Eisner approaches the material with such earnestness that it makes the cartoonish gore and stupid dialogue darkly hilarious -- just like the VHS garbage you might have watched in the '80s. The film is awash in over saturated "Technicolor" and grain, making it feel old without having to resort to planned mistakes and absent footage. Eisner's vision isn't entirely beholden to Reagan-era schlock, however, and the film soon grows into its own neon-tinted style.
Hobo is a hyperactive movie that buzzes along through a fairly brisk plot (it's only 86 minutes), but is anchored by the deliberate pace of the incredible Rutger Hauer. If you thought this tall Dane kicked butt in Blade Runner or The Hitcher, just wait until you see him as the nameless vagabond with a buckshot. He plays the role with the kind of seriousness usually only found in Spielberg war movies. Hauer mutters every absurd line (including a lengthy speech about the dangers of bears) with total commitment. Plenty of credit is due to screenwriter John Davies, who managed to make every other line out of Hauer's mouth a cheesy bon mot begging for dramatic weight.
While the rest of the cast doesn't come close to Hauer's seriousness, they all add to the insane reality of wherever "Scum Town" is in Nova Scotia. Molly Dunsworth gives some fiery line readings as a prostitute who just wants to love bears and be a teacher some day. Slick and Ivan are letterman jacket-wearing tools straight out of a cocaine-addled Shakespearean goon school (that has to exist, right?). They, along with Downey as The Drake, are grating caricatures of villains; there's nothing terribly deep about their motives, and as such they do get fairly annoying after the third or fourth time they strike. As such, they make the perfect foils for the smoldering fire that is Hauer's hobo with a shotgun.
A movie this loaded with absurdity and crassness is, of course, also extremely violent. Like early Peter Jackson or George A. Romero films, there's no shortage of guts, blood, and carnage here. About 95 percent of it is excessive, and just as much of it looks fake. Still, this is the kind of movie that will appeal to a specific brand of geek, one with a high tolerance for videogame-level violence. The movie does occasionally cross the line into uncomfortable territories (including a terrible scene involving a bus full of children) that hurt the overall kitsch experience. Like horsing around with your younger brother, sometimes things go a little too far.
Hobo with a Shotgun isn't much of a technical marvel on standard definition; it doesn't really need to be. The colors are so saturated that they often blur together, overrunning the high contrast shadows and edges. The film looks stylishly sloppy and it works (whether that was intentional or not). The same could be said of the audio track, which doesn't go for anything vintage or shiny and new. It's just serviceable, and is complimented by an awesomely cheesy synth score.
The two-disc collectors edition is chocked with enough supplements to fill a shopping cart. There are two commentary tracks, one with Eisner and Hauer and a second with the director, writer, producer and the original "Hobo" actor. You can also watch the film in "Shotgun Mode," which has interactive behind the scenes stuff throughout the movie. The second disc contains a well-made, 45-minute documentary called "More Blood, More Heart," following the production of the film. There's a score of deleted scenes, a weird alternate ending, interviews, the original "Hobo" trailer, and a new trailer contest winner. Lastly, there's a handful of video blogs and online teasers that add to both of the behind-the-scenes stuff and the characters/style of the film. Toss in a digital copy of the film, and this is seriously a great set of supplements.
This movie really isn't going to be for everyone. Heck, it might not even be for people that liked Death Proof or Machete. The film is full of terrible language, excessive violence, and a kind-of-stupid plot. But really, as a throwback to exploitation films of the '70s and '80s, it probably doesn't deserve to be any better than this.
It's understandable, and probably sane, that seeing Rutger Hauer march around a lawless Canadian town blasting hamloaf-sized holes into the chests of masked hooligans isn't your idea of a great movie experience. I'm not sure I would categorize it as "great" either. But if that sounds remotely appealing to you, Hobo with a Shotgun certainly is crazy, cheesy fun. If you find even ironic enjoyment in campy films like The Warriors, Day of the Dead, or anything that could be categorized with "-sploitation" at the end, you will probably enjoy this.
Not guilty, you piece of scum!
Review content copyright © 2011 Michael Rubino; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Magnolia Pictures
* 2.40:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 86 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Unrated
* Shotgun Mode
* Alternate Ending
* Deleted Scenes
* Video Blogs
* Digital Copy