There’s been a spat of high-concept, low-brow send-ups to terrible exploitation films over the last several years (Drive Angry 3D, Black Dynamite) and we owe a debt of gratitude to Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez, the masterminds behind Grindhouse, which started it all. Rodriguez failed to live up to his faux-trailer for Machete in the actual feature-length format, but Hobo with a Shotgun (which was a faux-trailer shown with Grindhouse in Canada) lives up to the insanity of its initial trailer draft thanks in part to Rutger Hauer, inventive kills, and actors who know they’re in a depraved, cackling, over-the-top, fucked up movie.
Synopsis: If you missed the title, Hauer plays a hobo with a shotgun, pissed off at the rampant crime that’s seized Hope Town (spray-painted over to read “Scum Town”). He goes about “DELIVERING JUSTICE ONE SHELL AT A TIME.”
Here at The Filmsmith we talk a lot about tone and how if a filmmaker isn’t able to find the appropriate one for their story, it can royally muck up the whole film. Thankfully, director Jason Eisener and his cast and crew know what film they’re making. The violence is played up to ludicrous extremes to simultaneously showcase the insanity of the villains (crime boss Drake and his depraved sons Slick and Drake, who would give Uday Hussein a run for his crimes against humanity) as much as the absurdist comedic sensibilities.* When “Hobo” Rutger Hauer is forced to choose between the $49.99 lawnmower he’s been saving for, or the shotgun right next to it for the same price, you know the film is in sure, slightly psychotic, hands.
And for a film produced with the Red One (35mm’s digital equivalent), this looks like it couldn’t have been made outside of the 80’s. Little things like physically lighting your set different colors instead of changing it in post-production are such a thing of the past that they stand out in Hobo. Visually this looks as dirty as Hauer and with all the crazy kills (who knew bumper cars could be used as a deadly weapon?) done without a hint of CGI, it holds true to the grindhouse flicks it’s representing. Not to mention the purposefully weak and awkward narrative between the Hobo and hooker with a heart of gold, Abby, which gets appropriate chuckles.
Eisener and Co. adeptly display Scum Town’s carnival of murder and torture to make way for the parade of shotgun blasts when the hobo just can’t take it anymore. Escape from New York meets a Troma film, Hobo with a Shotgun is a bloody funny ride.
*Though, even if you’re ok with the Itchy and Scratchy violence, you’ll wince at least once or twice when it moves beyond gory and into macabre disgust.
Hobo with a Shotgun took a huge financial risk releasing the film “Not Rated,” as in, the MPAA didn’t force it to chop out all the violence. Films with the “NR” label have a hard time getting theatrical distribution with mainstream cinemas, so see it at your local arthouse cinema or buy it when it comes out on DVD/Blu-Ray July 5. As someone tired of all films walking the PG-13 line to make the most money, I just want to make sure we reward quality independent films made for adults (same goes for the other ultra-violent vigilante film, Super).