Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Jason Eisener
Stars: Rutger Hauer, Jason Bateman, Brian Downey, Gregory Smith, Molly Dunsworth.
Like Robert Rodriguez’s Machete, Hobo With A Shotgun actually began life as one of the fake trailers in the Grindhouse experience. The title basically says all you need to know about this extra-violent take on the vigilante genre.
Rutger Hauer (from Blade Runner, etc) plays the titular nameless hobo, who jumps off a train and ends up in the lawless Hope Town, which has been rechristened “F–k Town”. The town itself is a cesspool of armed robbers, drug dealers, corrupt cops, abused prostitutes and even a paedophile Santa. The town is ruled over by the sadistic Drake (Brian Downey) and his two psychopathic sons (Gregory Smith and Nick Bateman), who brutally kill anyone who stands up to them.
After witnessing one act of depravity too many, the hobo decides to wreak vengeance and clean up the streets – one shotgun blast at a time. He also tries to rescue young street prostitute Abby (Molly Dunsworth), with whom he develops a paternal relationship. But his actions spark an escalation in the violence, and things rapidly spiral out of control.
The film is full of gory excesses, and the gratuitous, almost cartoon-like violence is over the top. At times the camera lens becomes splattered with blood and eviscerated body parts. Canadian director and co-writer Jason Eisener gives the low budget film the distinctive look and feel of a pulp B-grade feature from the 70’s, with its retro vibe, over saturated colours and garishly lit technicolour palette. The film is full of ludicrous yet laughably tough dialogue, tasteless effects, and exuberant performances that all hark back to the exploitation cinema and drive-in features of the 70’s. Hobo With A Shotgun is an homage of sorts to the sleazy exploitation films that Eisener grew up watching. He has an understanding of the tropes, and he directs the material with a frenetic energy. The pace rarely lets up from the outset, although the film does tend to go overboard by its climactic showdown.
Long past his glory days, Hauer has become a regular in gritty B-grade direct to DVD material. Here he does his familiar surly and nasty tough guy shtick well, delivering his cheesy one-liners with a snarl. His performance comes across as something of a cross between his creepy turn in 80’s classic The Hitcher and his vigilante in Blind Fury. But here he is playing both his deranged antihero and the essentially silly material more for wry laughs.
As one of the junior villains, Bateman seems to be channelling a young Tom Cruise, with his cocky smile and swaggering attitude.
A treat for fans of exploitation cinema, Hobo With A Shotgun effectively and efficiently delivers on its simple premise. The film is likely to find its niche in late night screenings.