Hobo with a Shotgun, 2011.
Directed by Jason Eisener.
Starring Rutger Hauer, Pasha Ebrahimi, Brian Downey, Molly Dunsworth and Rob Wells.
A shotgun-wielding hobo delivers justice to Scum Town, one shell at a time.
When Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez delivered Grindhouse to the big screen, they invited fellow film-makers to add to the double-bill by making faux-trailers. One of these was Hobo With A Shotgun, which has now been brought to fully formed, feature-length life. The title alone is brilliant and evokes a mental image worthy of one’s visual gaze. The casting of Rutger Hauer as said Hobo is also a stroke of brilliance.
The recent homages to trashy cinema of the 70’s/80’s from QT and RR were fairly effective. They did evoke that essence on the whole, though less so with Tarantino’s contribution, Death Proof. A problem for Death Proof especially, but also Planet Terror and Machete, was that they were all a bit too indulgent. Death Proof delved too much into the QT dialogue flights of fancy, whilst the Rodriguez flicks were just a bit too insane. A mish-mash hot pot with too many elements thrown in, and far too much computer generated imagery, that goes against the rough and ready home-made red batter from those old flicks-splatter. These were two high profile directors doing something for themselves to satisfy an impish need to mimic something they grew up on. What differs in Hobo, is that director Jason Eisener is a young upstart who, as well as paying homage, also wants to make a name for himself. Hunger plays some part in his film, as opposed to being over-fed in the other films.
Hobo is simple. The titular character arrives in town, and is instantly appalled at the lawless carnage around him. The criminals, working for kingpin Drake, rule the roost and the innocent get punished. One push too many, and the Hobo dons his vigilante cap (metaphorical) and sets about taking out the trash (metaphorical!). It’s your standard splatter movie, evoking grindhouse and Troma, with at its best, a panache near-worthy of early Peter Jackson and Sam Raimi. The villains are highly villainous. The deaths highly gory and characterisation is kept to a near minimum, whilst the acting is knowingly bad/camp/over the top.
However, there is one element that sets this film aside from standard gore-porn splatter-fest, and that is Rutger Hauer as the Hobo. It is also an ingredient that gives this preference over its more elaborate older relatives from Tarantino and Rodrigeuz. What Hauer delivers is a performance that brings to life a character simple and backgroundless on paper. The requisite tongue in cheek humour is well delivered by Mr. Hauer, but in addition and most impressively for a film in this genre, is the fact he injects some poignancy and intensity into the character. As he does at his best, Hauer really gets into the character. He becomes the blood coursing through the veins of someone’s simple, two dimensional creation, and makes it three dimensional and fully formed. It’s a genuine and at times surprisingly heartfelt and haunting performance. It’s a joy to see Hauer given lead duties, and a role that allows him to hit his brilliant top gear. This is his best role since The Hitcher, and should be appreciated, even from those who can’t endure the gore and sicker moments of the films genre convention checklist.
The film started off a little slow. There’s a sense of formality about it, as the audience is waiting for the shotgun-led vigilante justice served and the director waits too. The film will be hard to stomach from some in moments, most notably with a bus load of school children burnt alive and a gun waved in a baby’s face. Early on there’s not quite enough flair in the carnage, nor quick enough pace in the film, but as soon as Rutger starts to unleash 20-gauge justice, the film hits high gear and the set pieces excite. The finale is very good indeed. Of course this is intentionally trashy, and even with tongue-in-cheek there’s a sense that this can only work to a certain point. Homage to badness by being bad can’t really be too clever, nor massively effective.
In all the film delivers in moments. The humour hits the mark intermittedly. That balance between wit, and intentionally bad humour is never quite right, but the film certainly has its share of memorable lines, at least for Hauer. The cast aren’t great, and again, it’s hard to judge how much is down to intention, resources, or talent involved. However Molly Dunsworth, as a hooker who befriends the Hobo is good, and also flirts with adding some arc to her simple role. By the film's end though, there’s one thing that stands out as being most worthy of your time, and that is Rutger Hauer. He’s been in a lot of trash, not always intentionally made, and always adds a spark of watchability at the very least. Here he gets a stab in this recent hip-to-be-trash spate of films, which to some extent give him the chance to headline a film with a substantial audience base (the film did get a theatrical release, albeit brief) and thus gain a rise in credibility and notoriety. Hopefully there’s enough here for someone to give him a decent role in some more high profile pictures. Lord knows, Hauer’s talent is deserving. As for director Jason Eisener; He shows enough, particularly in the finale, that a career in action or horror films might be forthcoming.