The dual-review film criticism site: first a spoiler-free review, then an in-depth Alternate Take.
Hobo With a Shotgun

Reviewed by John Bleasdale.

Director Jason Eisener
Length 86 mins
Certificate 18 / NR
Rating *******---
Filmmaking: 3  Personal enjoyment: 4

Photo from the article Trailer.

Following in the wake of Machete (2010), Hobo with a Shotgun is the second film to have its origins as a spoof trailer in Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s Grindhouse project (2007). But while Rodriguez’s movie came with a prestigious Venice Film Festival premiere and a host of Hollywood names eager to stick their tongues in their respective cheeks, Hobo stems from a competition that was open to the public, and seems much closer (in budget, spirit and style) to the type of film from which Tarantino and Rodriguez drew their original inspiration. Even the casting of Rutger Hauer adds a sense of trash authenticity. Whereas there’s always the feeling that, say, De Niro or Lohan et al are slumming it, Hauer seems perfectly at home in the exploitation world, since throughout the eighties he churned out such straight-to-video fodder as 1989's Blind Fury (“He may be blind, but he don’t need no dog!”) and Wanted: Dead or Alive (1987).

Hauer plays the eponymous hobo, who arrives in town after riding the rails. He sets about going through the trash, looking for half-eaten sandwiches and smokeable cigarette butts, only to realise too late that the real trash is running the town. Drake (Brian Downey) is the criminal overlord, an extravagant white-suited maniac who kills his brother in the very first scene - an execution requiring a barbed wire noose, a manhole cover, a car, and a pole dancer, thus setting the tone for what is to follow. Perhaps not since the heyday of Troma films (most famously exemplified by The Toxic Avenger) has gore been so eagerly and lustily splashed about the American screen. Naked feet are splattered with sledge hammers, guts are pulled out, skin is lacerated, genitals are blown away. This is a film that offers absolutely the opposite of the leave-it-to-your-imagination philosophy of aesthetics: everything is taken to such ludicrous extremes that the movie soon becomes a challenge of what you can watch without looking away. It may serve as a rites of passage movie for teenagers the way Driller Killer (1979) and The Evil Dead (1981) did for an earlier generation.

There are plenty of comic moments: Drake’s degenerate sons, Ivan and Slick, play their roles as two eighties Tom Cruises on cocaine; the Plague, a pair of armour-plated assassins, cite Jesus Christ as one of their many victims; and the gore itself is often as funny as it is repugnant. And yet the film isn’t parody so much as pastiche. This is due in large part to Hauer - an actor who is often funny, but who seems never to be playing for laughs. His character’s longing for a lawn mower (which coincidentally costs exactly the same as the shotgun he finally decides to buy), his ridiculous insistence that Abby the prostitute is a school teacher, and his self-characterisation as a bear - all these things are performed with desperate sincerity rather than winks to the audience. Weirdly, you care about this Hobo with a shotgun.

This review was published on July 11, 2011.

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