Back in ’07, Robert Rodriguez and Quinten Tarantino joined forces for an ambitious theatrical experiment. Grindhouse was a double feature of exploitation films that ran together on a single ticket. Holding these two films together was a series of fake trailers that completed the retro marathon’s vintage experience.
The hype for this dirty celluloid love fest rose to some pretty serious highest, prompting a contest that capitalized on the fake trailer angle. Contestants were asked to create a fake grindhouse-esque trailer in a similar style to those that were going to appear in the movie. The eventual winner of this contest was director Jason Eisener and his entry Hobo With A Shotgun.
Winning in equal parts because of the absurd simplicity of it’s premise and the skill with which the Canadian director was able to recreate the esthetic of low budget ’70s era exploitation films, Hobo With a Shotgun became an instant fan favorite and talks began to surface about expanding the trailer into a full feature. Now 4 years (and one Rutger Hauer) later Hobo With a Shotgun is a full length feature that lives up to all of the promise the original trailer hinted at.
Hobo is film that doesn’t just understand it’s dirty roots, but revels in the idea of out shocking it’s forbears. The closest modern analogy for the absurd violence, super-saturated visuals and over acting abundance is the films of Troma. While watching this film I remember thinking to myself that this is the greatest Troma film I have seen in over a decade.
I don’t even really think I need to go deep into the plot of the film here in the review, it kind-a-sorta doesn’t matter. Basically; Hobo feels wronged, hobo befriends hooker, hobo gets shotgun, etc. If you have seen the trailer you know the story, so don’t go into it looking for any more story depth. None of that matters, of course, Hobo With A Shotgun exists to entertain with it’s shotgunning not story telling.
The setting for this movie is the desolate place known as Hope Town. Run by ‘The Drake’ and his hellion sons Ivan and Slick. Hope Town is rotten to the very core, the police are all corrupt and the streets are full of filth, both in terms of trash and people. So much is going wrong around our hero, the hobo, that all hope seems lost. How can one man change an entire ecosystem of hate and fear? With an infinitely ammoed shotgun of course!
One of the things I connected with immediately in this movie is the actors. This movie stars Rutger Hauer, which is inspired casting right off the bat. No one else can quite capture the same manic intensity that Hauer brings to the role. There are two other actors, however, who I would also like to focus on, Brian Downey and Gregory Smith. Downey plays ‘The Drake’ while Smith plays his favorite son Slick. These two provided excellent adversaries for our titular Hobo.
Brian Downey isn’t a particularly well known actor, but I am a fan of his work on the sci-fi series Lexx. In that show he plays a bumbling loser who accidentally becomes a hero. A far cry from the over the top villainous patriarch he embodies so well here. He is truly menacing without ever losing the tongue-in-cheek absurdity that sells him as ruler of this madness.
Following in his father’s footsteps is young Slick who is every bit vicious, but pushed to do far more horrific acts of violence. This type of role would be hard enough for any young actor, but Smith has an extra hard time as he is already a well known TV actor who started as a child on Nickelodeon and moved on to the popular show Everwood. Smith impressed me with his manic and unhinged performance, it is easy to go to far with this material and I think he went right to that line with out ever crossing over.
Up to this point this review has been light on actual story points, that was a conscious decision. Hobo With A Shotgun is a film that requires the shock to be enjoyed fully, but there is one thing that happens I am compelled to talk about. At a certain point in the movie a bus filled with children is incinerated in a pretty extreme scene. I think it fits right in with the tone the rest of the movie sets up, but if there is one point where this movie comes to close to the line of appropriateness this is probably it. I would have been remissed in my review-a-torial duties if I didn’t bring that up.
At the end of the day Hobo With A Shotgun is bonkers, just plain bug-nutty, and I loved every second of it. It isn’t for everyone, and I recommend anyone who as the slightest problem with hyper violence and characters with minimal likable characteristics to avoid this movie like the plague. This movie is for those cinephiles who can appreciate the love and workmanship that went into every death. Now bring on Hooker With a Chainsaw!