Hobo with a Shotgun (2011) / Action-Thriller
MPAA Rated: Not rated, but definitely would be R for strong, bloody violence, gore, nudity, drug content, sexuality and pervasive language
Running time: 86 min.
Cast: Rutger Hauer, Molly Dunsworth, Gregory Smith, Brian Downey, Nick Bateman
Director: Jason Eisener
Screenplay: John Davies
Hobo with a Shotgun is an abysmally unpalatable, chintzy-looking attempt to craft another neo-Grindhouse flick in the vein of the duo of Tarantino and Rodriguez, but without the star power, good writing, or overall talent. Not surprisingly, just as Machete, it started out as a fake trailer in 2007 in their collaboration Grindhouse, director Jason Eisener's prize for winning a contest for amateur filmmakers, distributed to Canadian theaters, which is where this film was made. The trailer is amateurish but tastelessly humorous for its two blood-soaked minutes. Alas, the choppy and underdeveloped full-length feature is not because it gives you about 80+ minutes more of the same.
Rutger Hauer (Batman Begins, Sin City) plays the unnamed titular hobo, who hitches a train to the city of Hope Town (a sign outside of town ominously crosses out "Hope" and replaces it with "Scum"), and finds it in a state of near anarchy. There is a police force, but they are firmly allied with the city's organized crime, led by a vicious heathen named Drake (Downey, Snow Angels) and his two sons, Slick (Smith, The Patriot) and Ivan (Bateman) . The hobo saves up his change in the hopes of purchasing a lawnmower to start up a business with, but soon finds himself snatching a pump-action shotgun (complete with nearly unlimited shells!) instead when he gets tired of seeing the sociopathic predators completely holding the good people of the town under their cruel domination. As his vigilante notoriety makes him a hero in the local paper, Drake and his cronies launch an all out war against the homeless and the hobo himself. With help from a hooker with a heart of gold, Abby (Dunsworth), the hobo finds he must kill or be killed to bring back hope to the people of Hope Town.
Hobo with a Shotgun rides only one sleazy hook throughout, and that is to be so excessively crude, vulgar or obscene that it is bound to cause wincing, retching, or just laughing among the viewing audience unfortunate (or fortunate, if you're just a bit twisted) enough to endure nearly 90 minutes of sadistic depravity on display. Strangely, there is a retro vibe to Eisener's low-budget exploitation film that suggest the 1980s, with its Wayfarers, boom boxes, VHS tapes and feathered hair, which doesn't factor in to the film's themes except to give it one more odd facet to mull over as you become inured to the guts and bones that splash across the screen. It's campy, but without purpose (unless its to recreate a typical release by Troma Entertainment), and most attempts to deliver humor merely annoy, while most attempts to deliver shock merely disgust.
The casting of Rutger Hauer is perhaps the film's biggest asset. It's not a remarkable performance, but he does imbue the role with the presence and gravitas necessary, as well as his deadpan sense of humor, and he does fit in with the 1980s throwback motif. But its also the saddest component, because as much as we might Hauer and his tongue-in-cheek persona, the film he's in is a mostly grating, nearly unendurable mess.
The mean-spiritedness is so pervasive, it soon becomes too overwhelming, especially as the story is so scant as to be nearly nonexistent, as we can do little but wait until the next sadistic act to make us sick occurs, or the next glorified kill by the hobo in retribution. The villains are one of the worst aspects, so cartoonish, they look like they belong in a Batman flick, donning Tom Cruise grins and acting like typical 1980s teen comedy F-tard bullies, cackling and mugging with glee and without abandon. Granted, the film itself is not terribly realistic, but it's still disappointing that Eisener and screenwriter John Davies couldn't give us more of interest other than semi-clever ways to dole out gross-out deaths, decapitations and dismemberments.
Gore-mongers, sadists, and lovers of the most malodorous of exploitation flicks will no doubt love the film for all of the reasons I despise it, but they are the intended audience. Unless you find the pornographic sight of blood, guts, viscera more entertaining than story, dialogue and characterizations, there's absolutely nothing here to entertain except to give you some interesting anecdotes to talk about the next time you're at the office with your fellow workmates. It's a film that is virtually unwatchable to most viewers, many of whom will shut the film off within the first few minutes (To those that did, you didn't miss anything -- it doesn't get any better. Just noisier and weirder.) There's a difference between trashy fun and plain old trash. And this trash is so repulsive, no ordinary hobo would bother sifting through grisly heaps of repellant muck to try to find any worthwhile treasure.
©2011 Vince Leo