Home > Reviews > Review: Hobo with a Shotgun

Review: Hobo with a Shotgun

Directed by: Jason Eisener
Produced by: Rob Cotterill, Niv Fichman, Paul Gross, Frank Siracusa, et al.
Written by: John Davies (and story), Jason Eisener & Rob Cotteril (story)
Starring: Rutger Hauer, Molly Dunsworth, Brian Downey, Gregory Smith, Nick Bateman
Music by: Adam Burke, Darius Holbert, Russ Howard III
Year: 2011

 

You really get what you expect with this movie. If you’re coming into a film with a title like Hobo with a Shotgun and aren’t expecting graphic violence, cheese, and camp then, seriously, stop watching movies, because you’re clearly not very good at it. Hobo with a Shotgun delivers what its title promises, and then some.

 

Like Machete before it, Hobo is borne from the Robert Rodriguez/Quentin Tarantino Grindhouse double feature as one of its many attached fake trailers (at least in Canada, anyway). The film follows an unnamed homeless man (Rutger Hauer) who arrives in the ironically-named Hope Town and finds nothing but depravity and violence. After witnessing the theatrical public execution of the brother of the local crime lord known as The Drake (Brian Downey) by his sadistic sons Slick and Ivan (Gregory Smith and Nick Bateman), the hobo begins his ascent to become the local vigilante.

 

Hobo with a Shotgun is inspired by the same infamous stylings of 1970s exploitation films that its predecessors were and features such wonderfully goofy one-liners as “Put the knife away, kid, or I’ll use it to cut welfare checks from your rotten skin!” and “You and me are goin’ on a car-ride to hell… and you’re riding shotgun!”

 

Director Eisener’s debut feature doesn’t aim to be high art, and nor should it aspire to be, despite a degree of satire and social commentary underlying the brutal but cartoonish sadism on the surface. The film is primarily concerned with preoccupying audiences’ time with this ridiculousness. Eisener and his writers have laced the film with little nuggets of perfunctory profundity and does so with relative skill, making these moments both cheesy and sincere. I might not have really felt too moved myself when the hobo’s protege Abby, the obligatory hooker with a heart of gold, gives her big speech towards the end, but I did believe that the characters in the film were sold on it.

 

The same goes for the hobo’s preoccupation with traditional values (telling Abby she looks like she could be a teacher) and attachment to simpler times (starting a lawnmowing business is his life aspiration, if only he could just get the money). Hauer gives the hobo a fatherly quality and a weary sincerity, even when he’s making ridiculous inspirational speeches to a group of newborn babies (“And don’t think twice about killing someone’s wife, because you won’t even know it’s wrong in the first place. Maybe you’ll end up like me. A hobo with a shotgun.”).

It’s hard to judge a film like this on the grounds of quality because the film is deliberately trying to emulate bad material, a feat that is actually, I imagine, much harder than it looks. While Tarantino’s films, for example, mostly just borrow B-movie tropes and polish them to be placed in an A-grade movie, Hobo with a Shotgun prefers to wear its B status on its sleeve and doesn’t intend to be anything but. Is it all the better for it? Perhaps, although I still prefer Tarantino’s alchemist-like ability to turn junk into gold. Again, though, that may be an unfair comparison, so let me just make a list for you of what I liked and what I didn’t:

Like: Hauer’s performance. Without his sincere reading of the script, the hobo could have come off as a merely cranky guy with a trigger finger. I’ve already touched upon this, however, so moving on…

Didn’t Like: I read this in a review elsewhere (here, to be exact), and I have to agree: the film just looks too polished to be a throwback tribute to exploitation films. I understand that the film lacks the pedigree of being worked on Tarantino or Rodriguez, but Eisener could have actually gone a little lower budget and made a much more entertaining movie for it. As is, the effects are actually pretty high quality (the hand in a lawnmower blade really churned my stomach), but perhaps too much?

Like: The cheese is layered thick here, and the writers have enough tongue-in-cheek dialogue to have me smile throughout the film. I’ve already quoted a few here, but here’s another if you don’t quite get the level of blatant evil that the Hobo and Abby are up against: “They are going to make comics out of my hate-crimes!”

Didn’t Like: I know it’s a bit ridiculous to ask for some level of continuity or background story with a movie like this, but the demonic metal creatures known collectively as The Plague, though visually interesting, didn’t do anything for me as villains that The Drake and his sons didn’t do better. Sure that noose-gun was fairly interesting to watch in a morbid kind of way, but after the literal overkill and carnage that came before from the humans, they really feel quite tame and anti-climactic.

I really don’t know much more of what I could say about Hobo with a Shotgun. If you want to see a hobo with a shotgun take on a bunch of thugs, go ahead and watch Hobo with a Shotgun. It’s practically critic-proof in that everything can be excused by saying “They meant to do that.” It actually didn’t feel bad enough, in my opinion, and my gut reaction was that the film falls somewhere between “so bad it’s good” and “satirical tribute.” It’s a mildly entertaining 86 minutes that I don’t regret watching, but I doubt I will be returning very often to visit Hope “Scum” Town any time soon.

The Viewer’s Commentary Rating: 3 / 5

  1. February 8, 2012 at 3:00 am

    Rutger Hauer IS A CLASSIC, Fo SHO!
    I Saw “HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN” The VERY DAY It Landed In Our Local Video-Store.
    My Whole Fam Hated It, Calling It a “KITCHEN SINK” Film.
    But THAT’S IT’S APPEAL! hehehe
    That AND Rutger!!!

  1. October 1, 2012 at 4:12 am

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