Notable Cast: Rutger Hauer, Gregory Smith, Nick Bateman, Molly Dunsworth, Brian Downey
“You can’t solve all the world’s problems with a shotgun”
“It’s all I know.”
There’s no better quote that represents Hobo With A Shotgun, so if you can’t take that serious…strap in. This is the second film based off of a fake Grindhouse trailer, gaining a filler slot (only in Canada, which explains why I missed it) after winning Robert Rodriguez’s South by Southwest Grindhouse trailer contest. Well, director Jason Eisener got his big break when immense popularity of the trailer convinced the studios to green light this B-movie massacre. But how would it rank amongst recent grindhouse homages like Machete, Planet Terror, and Death Proof? Like any good throwback, Hobo With A Shotgun is devoid of any sustainable plot, features terribly played out acting, and throws so much gore on the audience you can’t help but leave the theater feeling in need of a good shower. But what makes a good gindhouse homage? There’s no rules to follow, not to say a movie has to follow rules though, but there’s no general sense. Old grindhouse features received their cult following based on a “so bad it’s good: factor. Most of the time, directors were actually trying to make a respectable movie. But what about when you’re TRYING to force a movie to be “so bad it’s good.” I know, a silly concept, but also doubly a highly entertaining art form. At this point right now, while I’m writing this very review, I still don’t know my final feelings. I usually go into my reviews with a final verdict in mind, but I can honestly say I’m blanked. Hobo With A Shotgun tries to shock and awe, oh and it did, but I can’t say yet if it was in a good way. So I’m going to try something different here. Instead of going down the list “this was well done, that wasn’t” style, I’m just going to write in one steady stream of logic (or however things work out in my brain, so maybe forget steady). However many words it takes, I will uncover my feelings for Hobo With A Shotgun.
The story of Hobo With A Shotgun is exactly what the title depicts. As a hobo (Rutger Hauer) rolls into a new town, he witnesses firsthand the scum that have taken over. The city is run by local kingpin Drake (Downey) and his two sons Slick (Smith) and Ivan (Bateman), who torment hobos for fun. With the streets in constant chaos, our protagonist hobo decides to squash his landscaping dreams for another kind of redecorating: the streets with the blood of the guilty. The hobo spends his last dollars on a 20-gauge shotgun, and dispenses swift justice on the likes of thugs, crooked cops, punks, and child molesters. He’s one pissed off hobo with a shotgun, just trying to make a difference.
And so the deliberation starts. Right off the bat, Hobo With A Shotgun nails the feeling of a 70’s grindhouse exploitative extravaganza visually. Eisener even used old school Technicolor for the post production of the film, making the visuals look dated. Gore hounds will be squealing with glee at most of the effects, and again Eisener uses such fake quality that you couldn’t tell Hobo With A Shotgun was a recent release. The aura was set up, and Eisener transported us back to a time when directors were even more bat shit crazy than today. But thus where my doubts started. The writing was atrocious. I love everything about grindhouse movies, don’t get me wrong, and they deliver some of the best lines without trying. But the script was trying so hard to deliver these moments, a lot of them just seemed to awkwardly forced. This is coming back to the point that Hobo With A Shotgun was trying to force itself to be so bad, that it just came off like a five year old striving for attention but with nothing to really of value say. Dialogue just flat out didn’t make sense, and was so overly vulgar that it elicited confusion instead of laughs. There was almost no creativity to it, just the most obnoxiously audacious things possible to say, without any of the humor. And when Hobo With A Shotgun tried to be “serious” aka horribly stupid but pretending to be serious, is when it struggled the most. Machete had moments where it took the “serious” portions and turned them hilarious, like cuing the porno music every time Machete was with a girl or lines like “Machete don’t text” that were able to play off the seriousness with obvious foolishness. Hobo offered no such rewards, and just wasted time making dull speeches about bears. I get we were supposed to find these things so bad but at the same time so good. In realty they were nothing but filler between the homeless action sequences. I’ll give credit to a few good one liners that had me chuckling, but all in all there was just no stinging effect that had me repeating lines over and over again. But since I just mentioned action, lets bring the shotgunning sequences into the debate. I will admit the gore was pretty well done, there was a lot of it, and there were a few rewarding kills. But at the same time there could have been so much more creativity brought into the movie. Working in the grindhouse genre, you simply have no limitations. There are no expectations of what the audience is about to witness, except utter insanity. I believe that Eisener could have had a lot more fun with the action, instead of simply just having a hobo run around shooting people point-blank. That’s pretty much all it was, minus some arm bone stabbing, noose guns, and barbed wire guillotines. I feel like there could have been so more done on the creativity grindhouse has to offer. Simply dealing with topics like child molestation, killing children, and tormenting hobos doesn’t make you edgy enough to fall directly into the grindhouse genre. There it is, clarity, my final summation, Hobo With A Shotgun simply falls short.
Chalk it up to inexperience on Eisener’s part, over hyping the fake trailer, or anything you like: the fact of the matter is that Hobo With A Shotgun was wasted potential. The creators got too tied up trying to hit the “so bad it’s good level,” but ended up falling just short. And where does that leave you? Just with the bad. The writing is honestly what did me in. I couldn’t get past just how devoid of soul the script was. It lacked any real substance, characters lacked any real characteristics, and the humor missed every single mark. It’s bad enough honestly where the gore doesn’t even balance it out, which is usually a major staple of grindhouse films. Maybe watching Hobo With A Shotgun wasn’t the worst thing I could have used my time for, but afterwards I can’t help but think of the films that just plain did it better, not that Hobo With A Shotgun was something special. This all coming from the guy who owns some of the most gore-tastic, and dumbest films of all time.
Final Rating: 4.5 skull crushed hobos out of 10
The viewing experience can feel much like this scene: this weapon of mass destruction pointed at your balls ready to blow you away with a bloody mess. Except in the end, the man holding the gun chokes, lets up, and vanishes into the night: never to be seen again.