Title: Hobo With A Shotgun (2011)
Director: Jason Eisener
Cast: Rutger Hauer, Brian Downey, Molly Dunsworth
Rutger Hauer has to be one of the coolest old actors on the planet. I mean, here he is 67 years old and the dude is making films in which he hides from his enemies inside of a rotting carcass. He is making films in which he blows every villain away with his shotgun and eats glass just so he could have a couple of bucks in his pocket. Not only is Rutger Hauer a talented actor (and criminally underused if you ask me) he is totally game for participating in gory and ultra violent films like this latest homage to revenge films; Hobo With A Shotgun. My hats go down to Mr. Hauer for still being so hands on in projects like this one where first time directors with promise like Jason Eisener, are given an opportunity to show what they are really made of.
Hobo With a Shotgun came to be when Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez were looking for a way to promote Grindhouse (2007), their homage to films from the 70’s and 80’s. They came up with this contest in which people would submit their short films; the winner would be shown along side the other fake trailers that appear in Grindhouse, like Rob Zombie’s Werewolf Women of the SS or Eli Roth’s Thanksgiving. Jason Eisener’s short film Hobo With a Shotgun won the contest, and here we are, a couple of years down the road reviewing the full length version of that short Eisener submitted for the contest. So basically, what we got here is an expanded version of that original short, expanding and exploring the premise presented on the original short film. Turns out, the result is an awesome revenge film that you will either absolutely love, or absolutely hate. This is the second fake trailer from Grindhouse to be adapted into a film; the first one was Robert Rodriguez’s own Machete (2010). Does this mean that we might see a full length feature of Rob Zombie’s Werewolf Women of the SS, with Nicolas Cage playing Fu Manchu? Here’s hoping! Now there’s a film I wouldn’t mind seeing either!
Hobo With A Shotgun tells the story of a nameless, homeless Hobo who hops off a train to wonder into a very rotten town. This is the kind of town where bad guys feed on the bad guys themselves. In a scene that was extremely similar to the first opening moments of Robocop 3 (1993), not even the villains are safe on the streets of this town. You might be a thief or a scumbag, but there is an even more desperate thief up ahead, so you better watch out! There isn’t a decent soul in this place, not one. So much so that Hobo suggests the cops of this god forsaken town to get a dumpster truck, so they could pick up all the bad elements in this town, throw them in and get rid of them. Problem comes when Hobo decides to save a prostitute from being beat up by a hoodlum. Unfortunately, this isn’t just any old Hoodlum; this is the son of ‘The Drake’, the baddest motherfucker in town. You don’t want to mess with The Drake, unless you’re a Hobo With A Shotgun of course! Hobo makes it his own personal mission in life to eradicate this town of every scumbag and sleaze ball that comes across his path, delivering justice and revenge “one shell at a time”; wich of course doesn’t go well with The Drake and crew!
Hobo With a Shotgun is an interesting film because it encompasses various film genres. First and foremost, this is a revenge film. Something along the lines of what Charles Bronson did with his Death Wish films back in the 70’s. In the Death Wish films Charles Bronson took the law into his own hands; a vigilante who is sick of it all and wants to deliver justice on his own terms instead of waiting around for the police to show up. Now those were the glory days of revenge films! In fact, there was a very cool homage to Death Wish (1974 ) in Hobo With A Shotgun in which Hobo fills a sock with loose change and whacks a bad guy on the head with it. Pretty cool, just like Charles Bronson did in Death Wish. On the other hand this was also one big, loud, colorful, gory, comic book of a movie. The color palette on this film is saturated with lots of reds, yellows and blues, lots of purples. The color scheme on this film is as saturated and loud as a comic book page, and the film itself is as over the top as a comic book as well. How over the top is this film? Well, we meet these two characters who call themselves ‘The Plague’ that completely shift the films tone right into sci-fi territory! These guys seemed to jump right out of a Judge Dredd comic book or something. These two stone cold killers walk around in black armor, basically, they look like androids! They even talk in this cool as hell robot voice, so get ready for a film that will shift in tone drastically and break your expectations for it, this certainly is not a film that adheres to reality at all! Hobo With A Shotgun is also a very gory film, almost functioning as a horror film with it’s excessive gore. The violence is extremely over the top and plentiful. We get juicy decapitations, bodies being split in half, feet being squashed to smithereens; trust me when I say that this one gets gooey.
The one weak link in the film is the actors they chose as the films villains. They don’t come off as evil enough. I mean yeah, they do really evil things (like chopping up bodies in half with razor blades and burning down school buses filled with kids) but in my opinion they didn’t convey that aura of evil well enough through their performances. The Drake (played by Brian Downey) comes off as an old actor playing an over the top bad guy, he doesn’t come of as an evil person at all. Same goes for his sons; they look too squeaky clean to be truly sick bastards. I mean, if these guys were as twisted and perverse as they are supposed to be in the film, I doubt they would speak and look the way they do here. In fact, to be honest, The Drake came off as kind of annoying. The acting on this trio of baddies was the worst part of the film, a pity since all the other elements of the film worked for me. My two cents on this matter are: if you put a strong actor to play the lead (like Rutger Hauer) then you should have gotten equally strong actors to play your villains. But alas, we got what we got. Speaking of the films villains, the film does introduce us to the ominous ‘The Plage’ a duo of henchmen who intimidate way more than The Drake and his two bumbling idiot sons do, so things are evened out in the villain department in this way. I think a whole film could be made out of ‘The Plague’; they looked and sounded so bad ass in that black armor and robotic voice. I guess we could say that everything that was missing from The Drake and his two sons, the film got right with The Plague.
This film comes to us from Jason Eisener, a first time director with an impressive looking and highly entertaining debut. I wonder what will come next from Mr. Eisener? Maybe a film based on The Plague characters? The extras on this dvd are a lot, and I recommend checking them out cause they really go into how this film was made. The extras show what a collaborative effort filmmaking is, especially when they show Hauer and Eisener working out a scene. Rutger Hauer will charm the pants out of anyone watching these extras; he was such a trooper. He comes off as such a collaborative and hands on actor. “Well get it Jason, don’t worry” he tells Eisner while trying to work out the logic of a scene. Hauer himself did some of the stunts, like jumping of a two story building into a bunch of garbage bags, now theirs commitment right there! And the dude is 67!? I hope I have as much stamina when I am that age! This is yet another memorable character in Rutger Hauer’s strong body of work. Like some of Hauer's best films, Hauer completely takes over the film, same as he did in The Hitcher for example; a film in which Hauer's character (the titular Hitcher) completely carries the film. Hobo With A Shotgun is a great revenge film, its gory, silly, fun, ultra-violent and an excellent example of what a Grindhouse film should feel like. In fact, if I am to be totally sincere, it is my opinion that Hobo With A Shotgun captured more accurately what a true Grindhouse film should be like, it really drenches itself in that 70’s revenge movie atmosphere, even more so than Tarantino’s and Rodriguez’s own Grindhouse features. I loved Grindhouse, but Hobo With A Shotgun captured the Grindhouse spirit more accurately, kudos to Jason Eisener and crew for achieving that on Eisener's first film.
Rating: 4 out of 5