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Although a lot of people have quite probably already forgotten about Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’ mis-marketed and generally underwhelming “Grindhouse”, the fake trailers which accompanied their features have had a far greater impact. The most memorable of these was undoubtedly the award winning “Hobo with a Shotgun” short from director Jason Eisener, which quickly blasted itself into the consciousness of genre fans, becoming a huge hit on YouTube in the process. As a result, first time helmer Eisener was given the chance to turn the trailer into a full blown feature, managing to notch up some dream casting by landing the immortal Rutger Hauer (“Blade Runner”, “The Hitcher”) in the title role.
The film’s plot is admirably straightforward and aims mainly to deliver on the delirious promise of the trailer – a homeless man (Hauer) arrives by good old fashioned freight train in Hopetown, USA, planning to scrape together enough money to start his own modest lawn mowing business. It doesn’t take him long to realise that the town is a haven for scum of the worst kind, being ruled over by thugs, killers, rapists and paedophiles. At the top of the heap is crime boss Drake (Brian Downey, “Haven”), who along with his psychotic sons Slick (Gregory Smith, who way back in the mists of time was the young lead of Joe Dante’s “Small Soldiers”) and Ivan (Nick Bateman) keeps the city in a state of fear. The hobo soon finds himself the target of his unwanted attentions after he rescues prostitute Abby (Molly Dunsworth, another “Haven” alumnus) from Slick, and grabs himself a shotgun to carve out his own brand of street justice.
Whereas Robert Rodriguez’ feature length “Machete” pretty much missed the point entirely, “Hobo with a Shotgun” is clearly the real deal, coming across as a true slice of grindhouse madness, or perhaps as the bastard child of an unholy union between Troma and Sushi Typhoon. Eisener certainly does a great job of nailing the look and feel of 1970s and 80s trash, though thankfully without going too far down either the parody or tribute routes, and the film is at the same time very much its own beast, if only for the fact that it pushes the envelope much further than any of its old school peers. In fact, pushes is very much the wrong word, as the film is easily one of the goriest and most over the top in recent memory, with good taste clearly never having entered into the equation. Although listing its countless money shots would kind of spoil the fun, it’s enough to say that the film packs in more splattered heads, entrail explosions and dismemberments than most viewers will be able to count, with most of the budget having probably gone on the incredibly entertaining special effects.
The film is gleefully offensive throughout, and definitely isn’t one for the faint of heart or weak of stomach. Eisener comes across like a demented kid, clearly having a great time smashing his way through all manner of taboos, and the film does have a hilariously sick sense of humour, with an avalanche of bloody sight gags and a near perfect script that contains gems such as “Put the knife away, kid… or I’ll use it to cut welfare checks from your rotten skin!”. At the same time, as a director he shows a considerable amount of technical talent, with the film being well paced and visually impressive, in a down and dirty, “Combat Shock” kind of way. This lifts it several notches above most other exploitation fare or simple shock tactic outrages, and makes it genuinely enjoyable and exciting. Hauer is wonderful in the lead, in a role he seems born to play, snarling and wheezing as he quite literally cuts his way through his endless army of foes, and adding a real touch of class and credibility.
“Hobo with a Shotgun” is easily the most authentic grindhouse of recent years, and probably the only one which quite comfortably sits alongside, and indeed outdoes most of its comrades from back in the day. Relentlessly and unrepentantly gruesome and wild, it’s a film surely destined for fan adoration and well deserved cult status, with Jason Eisener obviously being a genre aficionado as well as a fine director – bravo, man, bravo.
Jason Eisener (director) / Jason Eisener, Rob Cotterill, John Davies (screenplay)
CAST: Rutger Hauer … Hobo
Robb Wells … Logan
Brian Downey … Drake
Gregory Smith … Slick
Nick Bateman … Ivan / Rip
Drew O’Hara … Otis
Molly Dunsworth … Abby
Jeremy Akerman … Chief of Police