A film review by Craig J. Koban July 8, 2011


2011, No MPAA Rating, 86 mins.


Hobo: Rutger Hauer / The Drake: Brian Downey / Ivan: Nick Bateman / Slick: Gregory Smith / Abby: Molly Dunsworth


Directed by Jason Eisener / Written by John Davis

HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN has a title that promises to deliver on all sorts of mindless, lurid, and merrily blood-soaked excess, but there's a heartfelt message at its core: 

Even hobos have dreams. 

The film’s homeless transient (played inexplicably, but rather awesomely by Rutger Hauer) wants a lawnmower, one that he has been lovingly gazing at in the store window of the wonderfully named 'Pawn Till Dawn' shop at the dystopian city that he’s arrived in.  This place is so dystopian that its arrival sign has “Welcome to Scum Town” spray painted on it (actually Nova Scotia in real life).  Despite the fact that murderers, thieves, pedophiles, and all forms of degenerate filth pollute the town, this hobo just wants a lawnmower so he can start his own business.  He even has a slogan already set up: “You grow it, we cut it!”  Kinda catchy, eh? 

There’s a problem: the lawnmower costs $49.99, which is about $49.98 more than he has in his pocket.  So, he goes to unseemly levels to earn a living and, at one point, he even gets down on his hands and knees, breaks a bottle over his head, and eats the broken glass for a vile and repulsive documentary filmmaker that preys upon the weak.  Hobo does manage to get his money, but on the day that he triumphantly goes into the Pawn Till Dawn it is held up by some dirt bags, one of which is carrying a machete.  Hobo pauses, assesses the situation, and realizes that he has had just about enough of this town.  That’s when he looks over at another display and notices a double barrel shotgun advertised conveniently at...$49.99.  Let’s just say that he decides to buy the gun and a vengeful anti-hero is born. 

Last year I wrote that MACHETE was a cinematic first: a film based on a fake trailer, which in turn was shown in-between the features that made up Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino’s GRINDHOUSE double feature.  Well, shave my head and call me baldy, because HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN is now the second film in history to be based on a faux movie preview, although it was a trailer that did not see the light of day south of the Canadian border.  In 2007 Jason Eisener saved up $150, gathered some willing actors and crew, and filmed a joygasmic ode to 1970’s midnight revenge thrillers with his HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN trailer, which not only became a YouTube sensation in the Great White North, but it also caught the attention of Rodriguez and Tarantino.  They loved it so much that they placed the ad in GRINDHOUSE screenings across select cities in Canada.  Unavoidably, this fake trailer desperately cried out for feature length film treatment, with a cast of unknown Canucks and starring the legendary actor of BLADE RUNNER, no less. 

The town in the feature length film is like Gomorrah on an acid trip.  Scum Town’s leading psychopath is Drake (a deranged Brian Downey), who oversees the town with ruthlessness and a thirst for all out carnage.  He has two sons that are almost more sadistically impulsive: Slick (Gregory Smith) and Ivan (Nick Bateman) who have a very unique manner of dealing with filthy, stinking bums: they catch them, stick their heads in manholes and decapitate them with cars.  Or, in one instance, they crush their skulls in between bumper cars at the carnival.  Actually, they also like to strip them, hang them upside down, and have their naked floozies baseball bat them to death.  Yuck. 

It’s no wonder whatsoever why Hobo has had enough and wants to enact as much shotgun wielding justice as possible (it’s a good thing that he has enough for the gun, but the script lacks answers as to how he affords the endless supply of shells he seems to have, but never mind).  Hobo is not a one-note, brains 'n limbs blastin' crusader of the people; he does have a conscience, which is shown when he befriends a local whore that is about to be viciously raped by a cop, no less.  She takes him home and provides him shelter and a nice sweater with the picture of a bear on it.  This leads to one of the film’s many hilarious monologues uttered by Hobo, as he softly explains why grizzlies are noble, but fierce man killers.  The prostitute tries to be the voice of calm reason to him. “You can’t solve the world’s problems with a shotgun,” she pleads.  “It’s all I know,” he quietly retorts. 

HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN (dang, that title never gets old!) is the least subtle film I’ve seen in a long while.  But it’s also gleefully self-aware and never hides behind its willingness to be an all-out-orgy of bloodshed, perversity, and crassness.  The film is an unpretentious freak show of the macabre and sick, and it seems to have a sly smile on its face for its bottomless savagery and dark humor.  The film is so jam packed with obscenely violent images and perpetual f-bombs of multiple varieties that it would have given the MPAA screeners collective heart attacks if they screened it.  There are really no redeeming qualities to HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN, which makes it so much ape-shit crazy fun.  Just consider the film’s litany of outrageous moments: One scene, for example, has Hobo enacting poetic oral justice on a street pimp that beats on one of his girls and another even zanier moment has him hiding inside the innards – Tauntaun-style – of a victim that he just shot into a chili-like consistency in order to evade an angry mob.  There is also a truly hysterical sequence where Hobo uses duck tape and Evian water to treat a gaping neck wound of a victim he wheels through a hospital corridor.  There is also a fight sequence between Hobo and one of Drake’s goons that involves the henchmen karate kicking Hobo nearly to death while wearing hockey skates (ouch!).  Hell, if that were not enough, the film throws in robotic assassins and a giant octopus.  Don’t ask. 

Rutger Hauer is either a very game actor or completely out of his mind to do this film…or maybe both.  Yet, what’s amazing is that he brings a remarkable sincerity to the role while he unleashes hell as a loose canon and wide-eyed angel of merciless death.  He has a face carved out of stone and a glare that could make Clint Eastwood blush, and Hauer amazingly plays most of his lines straight, which makes them funnier.  Just watch how he tells a perp how Mother Theresa was as saint as he beats on him or another monologue he gives, no less, to dozens of newborn babies at a hospital nursery, where he pleads with them to not grown up to become hobos with shotguns as well.  At one point he – right before he kills him – tells his pedophile prey to “Suck on this, you child molesting shitlicker!”  It takes a special talent to utter lines like that…properly.  The film also benefits from a juicily diverse music score that echoes 70s exploitation fare, 80s techno cords, and even a cheesy porn film aesthetic.  The look of the film too is, well, beautifully ugly.  Cinematographer Karim Hussain’s purposely desaturated and sickly looking canvas looks almost as if someone urinated and vomited all over the screen, which I think is the intended effect.  Awash in puerile greens, yellows, and reds, HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN breathes with an unseemly and grim-ridden eccentricity. 

Does the film go too far?  Yes, especially in a fairly tasteless scene when the villains are shown torching a school bus full of kids where we see their burning corpses scream.  That was a bit too much, as was a scene where one of Hobo’s victims holds what’s left of his privates in his hand while making a phone call with the other (I did not know whether to be sickened or amused).  Yes, cheerful excess is this film’s primary motivation, and HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN delivers as a love ballad to a forgotten subgenre.  It also splendidly rounds off a quadrilogy of grindhouse films with PLANET TERROR, DEATH PROOF, and MACHETE.  I am not sure if anything can prepare for how over-the-top HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN is, but remember: It does have a villain dutifully telling his sons “If life gives you razors, then you make a baseball bat made of razor blades.”  

See what I mean?  

  H O M E