Thursday, August 18, 2011

Hobo With a Shotgun

As you might imagine from the title, Hobo With a Shotgun is damned lucky it ever got made into a movie.  Sure, I like movie titles that give you the gist of the story, but's a little on the nose, don't you think?  To help promote his Grindhouse project back in 2007, director Robert Rodriguez held a contest at the annual South by Southwest festival; contestants had to make fake movie trailers, along the same lines as the ones featured in Grindhouse.  If you missed Grindhouse in theaters, or have only seen its two movies (Death Proof and Planet Terror) separately, there were a string of hilarious retro fake movie trailers between the two feature films, usually in the style of 1970s horror movie trailers.  Not to discredit the actual movies, but the trailers were the highlight of that movie-going experience for me.  Here's Jason Eisener's SXSW contest-winning entry:

Regardless of your taste in movies, that trailer is awesomely funny.  Well, enough buzz grew around this trailer that they actually went ahead and made a feature-length version, only this one had a budget and Rutger Hauer, of all people, starring.  This isn't the first feature film to have been made from a Grindhouse trailer --- Machete was a surprise hit --- but Hobo With a Shotgun doesn't have the star power or the long-running buzz of its kin.  Is it possible that this practically straight-to-DVD affair is worth watching? 
Answer carefully.

Not surprisingly, Hobo With a Shotgun is the story of a hobo (Rutger Hauer).  He has been hobo-ing around the country for a good long time and has finally ridden the rails (as hobos are wont to do) to Hope Town, whose sign has been graffiti-ed to read "Scum Town."  Here, the hobo hopes to save enough money to buy a lawnmower and build a new life for himself.  Unfortunately, the town is ruled by the iron fist of The Drake (Brian Downey).  Under his rule, normal citizens are useless cannon fodder.  If you cross him, he will murder you in public as creatively as possible and get away with it.  He owns the town.  He owns the drug trade.  He owns the police.  He seems to own everything and everybody of importance in Hope Town.  This is obviously a town in need of justice, but who will be the hero that steps up?  And what will he use as his weapon of choice?  I won't spoil the plot twist for you.
I don't know if you can recycle those legs, but I guess a shotgun makes a convincing argument.

The acting in Hobo With a Shotgun should probably be taken with a grain of salt.  After all, the actors are acting in a movie about a hobo with a shotgun; this isn't exactly a British period piece.  Is the acting good?  No, but it suits the material perfectly.  Rutger Hauer has a lot of fun and his talent makes watching this movie one hell of a lot easier than it could have been.  He is smart enough to not over-complicate his character, and that helps keep this movie fun.  I thought Brian Downey was perfect as the MWA-HA-HA evil crime boss, and I liked how ridiculously over-the-top he and his sons (played by Gregory Smith and Nick Bateman) were.  I can understand some people who found them annoying, but they were the perfect foils (a businessman and frat boys) to a hobo on a vigilante mission.
A villain designed to make you want to hit him.  Perfect!
Molly Dunsworth played the hobo's only friend, a stripper with a heart made  She's nice enough, but I was looking for something less valuable than gold.  I think pewter works fine.

But really, what were you expecting from the acting in this film?  If you are curious about Hobo With a Shotgun, your main question should be "Is it watchable?"  Any movie with a title and premise as dumb as this one should be absolutely wretched, unless it is handled just right.  And I am happy to say that Hobo With a Shotgun was handled perfectly.  The best description I can give you of this movie is a blend of the better Troma movies and the first Robocop.  Yes, the acting is ridiculous.  As for violence and gore, well...there's some.
...and her day only gets worse.
Actually, there's a hell of a lot.  Lots of shotgun blasts, heads exploding, decapitations, and loss of limbs.  This is, at the very least, not a dull movie.  More importantly, this is a movie that knows how stupid it is, and is willing to play up to that idea.  So you think it's a little weird that a hobo decides to fight a corrupt town with a shotgun?  Well, what if he witnesses criminals threatening to shoot a baby in the face?  When your bad guys are that evil, it makes shotgun vigilantism both more plausible and more reasonable.
Manhole covers are underused in most movies.  Not here.

Is this a movie for everyone?  Definitely not.  It's dumb and it's gory.  It's also nearly perfect for what it is.  I loved what director/creator Jason Eisener was able to do with this kernel of an idea and hope to see a bright future for him.  Maybe he won't make great films, but he could definitely reboot The Toxic Avenger.  I can't really judge Eisener's direction because the film is so deliberately funny-bad, but I will say that he crafted a genre masterpiece.

The filmmakers decided to hold a fake movie trailer contest to celebrate the way their film got made.  Here's the winner:


  1. good review again brian despite my disgust at the content of the movie. in my world theres a limit to what violence and gore can be laughed at and sadly this crossed the line. i was actually disturbed when i watched it despite going in wanting to laugh. although i can see what people see in the movie and why it's enjoyable. just not for me.

  2. You don't have to apologize for not liking any movie, especially this one.

    I have a fondness for bad horror movies, so Hobo was definitely within my range of gore acceptability. There are a lot of movies that are outside of that range, so I get where you're coming from.

  3. i'd apologise to myself. i really wanted to like this.

  4. No should apologize for not liking this movie. It plain sucked. I love me a gory flick (I find the Hostel movies humorous) and Hobo does have gore. Unfortunately, it has way too much suck along with the gore. I watched this with a group of friends, all of which wanted to watch a movie about a hobo with a shotgun, and less than half finished. Everything that was fun and awesome about Machete just sucked in this one. It was dumb and painful.

  5. Hmmm. Divided opinions I see. Gonna have to check it out for myself. It is on Netflix watch instantly now...

  6. @nobulljive: I can't help it if your friends hare lame assholes (it's funny because you were my best man). I'm a little surprised at your response, but this is more toward the Danny O'D-type audience than anybody else, and I think we've occasionally had serious disagreement over some of the trashy stuff.

    I stand by my statement that this is a great blend of Troma-style moviemaking and Robocop. Of course, not everyone celebrates Robocop Day every spring, so not everyone will understand...

    Two side notes:
    1) I definitely need to watch Machete. I have no doubt that I will love it.
    2) I will be reviewing Persona tomorrow, so I expect to hear more disagreement then.