A film review by Craig J. Koban July 8, 2011
HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN
2011, No MPAA Rating, 86
2011, No MPAA Rating, 86 mins.
Hobo: Rutger Hauer / The Drake: Brian Downey / Ivan: Nick Bateman / Slick: Gregory Smith / Abby: Molly Dunsworth
Directed by Jason Eisener / Written by John Davis
WITH A SHOTGUN has a title that promises to deliver on all sorts of
mindless, lurid, and merrily blood-soaked excess, but there's a
heartfelt message at its core:
Even hobos have dreams.
The film’s homeless transient (played inexplicably, but rather awesomely by Rutger Hauer) wants a lawnmower, one that he has been lovingly gazing at in the store window of the wonderfully named 'Pawn Till Dawn' shop at the dystopian city that he’s arrived in, so dystopian that its arrival sign has “Welcome to Scum Town” spray painted on it (actually Nova Scotia in real life). Despite the fact that murderers, thieves, pedophiles, and all forms of degenerate filth pollute the town, this Hobo just wants a lawnmower so he can start his own business. He even has a slogan already set up: “You grow it, we cut it!” Kinda catchy, eh?
There’s a problem: the lawnmower costs $49.99, which is about $49.98 more than he has
in his pocket. So, he goes to
unseemly levels to earn a living and, at one point, he even gets down on his
hands and knees, breaks a bottle over his head, and eats the broken glass
for a vile and repulsive documentary filmmaker that preys upon the weak.
Hobo does manage to get his money, but on the day that he
triumphantly goes into the Pawn Till Dawn it is held up by some dirt bags,
one of which is carrying a machete. Hobo
pauses, assesses the situation, and realizes that he has had just about enough of this
town. That’s when he looks
over at another display and notices a double barrel shotgun advertised
conveniently at...$49.99. Let’s
just say that he decides to buy the gun and a vengeful anti-hero is born.
Last year I wrote that MACHETE
was a cinematic first: a film based on a fake trailer, which in turn was
shown in-between the features that made up Robert Rodriguez and Quentin
Tarantino’s GRINDHOUSE double
feature. Well, shave my head
and call me baldy, because HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN is now the second film in
history to be based on a faux movie preview, although it was a trailer
that did not see the light of day south of the Canadian border.
In 2007 Jason Eisener saved up $150, gathered some willing actors
and crew, and filmed a joygasmic ode to 1970’s midnight revenge
thrillers with his HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN trailer, which not only became a
YouTube sensation in the Great White North, but it also caught the
attention of Rodriguez and Tarantino.
They loved it so much that they placed the ad in GRINDHOUSE screenings
across select cities in Canada. Unavoidably,
this fake trailer desperately cried out for feature length film treatment,
with a cast of unknown Canucks and starring the legendary actor of BLADE
RUNNER, no less.
The town in the feature length
film is like Gomorrah on an acid trip.
Scum Town’s leading psychopath is Drake (a deranged Brian Downey)
who oversees the town with ruthlessness and a thirst for all out
carnage. He has two sons that
are almost more sadistically impulsive: Slick (Gregory Smith) and Ivan
(Nick Bateman) who have a very unique manner of dealing with filthy,
stinking bums: they catch them, stick their heads in manholes and
decapitate them with cars. Or,
in one instance, they crush their skulls in between bumper cars at the
carnival. Actually, they also
like to strip them, hang them upside down, and have their naked floozies
baseball bat them to death. Yuck.
It’s no wonder whatsoever
why Hobo has had enough and wants to enact as much shotgun wielding
justice as possible (it’s a good thing that he has enough for the gun,
but the script lacks answers as to how he affords the endless supply of
shells he seems to have, but never mind).
Hobo is not a one-note, brains 'n limbs blastin' crusader of the
people…he does have a conscience, which is shown when he befriends a
local whore that is about to be viciously raped by a cop, no
less. She takes him home and
provides him shelter and a nice sweater with the picture of a bear on it.
This leads to one of the film’s many hilarious monologues uttered
by Hobo, as he softly explains why grizzlies are noble, but fierce
man killers. The prostitute
tries to be the voice of calm reason to him. “You can’t solve the
world’s problems with a shotgun,” she pleads.
“It’s all I know,” he quietly retorts.
HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN (dang,
that title never gets old!) is the least subtle film I’ve seen in a long
while. But it’s also gleefully self-aware and never hides behind
its willingness to be an all-out-orgy of bloodshed, perversity, and
crassness. The film is an
unpretentious freak show of the macabre and sick, and it seems to
have a sly smile on its face for its bottomless savagery and
dark humor. The film is so jam packed with obscenely violent images and
perpetual f-bombs of multiple varieties that it would have given the MPAA
heart attacks if they screened it. There
are really no redeeming qualities to HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN, which makes it
so much ape-shit crazy fun.
Just consider the film’s
litany of outrageous moments: One scene, for example, has Hobo enacting poetic
oral justice on a street
pimp that beats on one of his girls and another even zanier moment has him
inside the innards – Tauntaun-style – of a victim that he just shot
into a chili-like consistency in order to evade an angry mob.
There is also a truly hysterical sequence where Hobo uses duck tape and
Evian water to treat a gaping neck wound of a victim he wheels through a
hospital corridor. There is also a fight sequence between Hobo and one of
Drake’s goons that involves the henchmen karate kicking Hobo nearly to
death while wearing hockey skates (ouch!).
Hell, if that were not enough, the film throws in robotic assassins
and a giant octopus. Don’t
Rutger Hauer is either a very
game actor or completely out of his mind to do this film…or maybe both.
Yet, what’s amazing is that he brings a remarkable sincerity to
the role while he unleashes hell as a loose canon and wide-eyed angel of
merciless death. He has a
face carved out of stone and a glare that could make Clint Eastwood blush,
and Hauer amazingly plays most of his lines straight, which makes them
funnier. Just watch how he
tells a perp how Mother Theresa was as saint as he beats on him or
another monologue he gives, no less, to dozens of newborn babies at a
hospital nursery, where he pleads with them to not grown up to become hobos with
shotguns as well. At one point he – right before he kills him – tells his
pedophile prey to “suck on this you child molesting shitlicker.” It takes a special talent to utter lines like
The film also benefits from a
juicily diverse music score that echoes 70’s exploitation fare, 80’s techno
cords, and even a cheesy porn film aesthetic.
The look of the film too is, well, beautifully ugly.
Cinematographer Karim Hussain’s purposely desaturated and sickly
looking canvas looks almost as if someone urinated and vomited all over the
screen, which I think is the intended effect.
Awash in puerile greens, yellows, and reds, HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN
breathes with an unseemly and grim-ridden eccentricity.
Does the film go too far? Yes, especially in a fairly tasteless scene when the villains are shown torching a school bus full of kids where we see their burning corpses scream. That was a bit too much, as was a scene where one of Hobo’s victims holds what’s left of his privates in his hand while making a phone call with the other (I did not know whether to be sickened or amused). Yes, cheerful excess is this film’s primary motivation, and HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN delivers as a love ballad to a forgotten subgenre. It also splendidly rounds off a quadrilogy of grindhouse films with PLANET TERROR, DEATH PROOF, and MACHETE. I am not sure if anything can prepare for how over-the-top HOBO is; it does, after all, have a villain dutifully telling his sons at one point, “If life gives you razors, then you make a baseball bat made of razor blades.”
See what I mean?