Writer/director Jason Eisener’s demented modern-day exploitation actioner “Hobo with a Shotgun” crams more cinematic debauchery into an hour-and-a-half than your brain can process in one sitting. Decapitations, disembowelments, disfigurements, and a wide assortment of deliberately shocking material are on-display at any given moment; there’s nary a second that goes by when someone isn’t being savaged in one way or another. And while this may sound like just another day at the grindhouse for those of you who thrive on this sort of low-budget trash, Eisener’s contribution to the genre is as gripping as it is violently moronic. Instead of simply aping what made its predecessors so memorable, “Hobo with a Shotgun” carves out its own unique piece of the pie by delivering an engaging storyline powered by a character who’s destined for cult status.
Action veteran Rutger Hauer stars as the titular hero, a homeless, down-on-his-luck outcast who spends the vast majority of his day panhandling for spare change. His dream is to start his own lawn care business, a venture that will require the purchase of a second-hand law mower. In order to make some quick cash, the hobo decides to partake in a “Bum Fights”-style documentary being filmed down the block. However, instead of knocking around one of his financially-challenged cohorts, the director forces the poor bastard to eat broken glass. Eager to make some money, the bum reluctantly stuffs the jagged shards into his mouth. Capitalism never looked so painful.
With cash in hand, the hobo sets out to purchase a mower at the local pawn shop. However, before he can buy the item in question, three masked street punks show up to rob the place. When the owner’s earnings aren’t enough to appease their lust for greed, they sadistically threaten to butcher a customer and her crying baby. As any self-respecting entrepreneur would do, our hero grabs a nearby pump-action shotgun off the wall and proceeds to paint the establishment with the blood of his enemies. Before leaving, he even coughs up the cash for the weapon, which just so happens to share the same price tag as the lawn mower. Fate, it would seem, has other plans in store for our hero. And so begins the hobo’s mission to clean up the streets, an adventure that will thrust him directly into the putrid heart of big city’s seedy underbelly.
If Rutger Hauer was born to blame one role, this would be it. The “Blade Runner” alumni completely embodies his character; more times than not, I found myself completely forgetting that I was actually watching Hauer blast gaping holes into the film’s collection of unscrupulous villains. In my eyes, he is the hobo, a man so disgusted with the human race that he feels the inexplicable urge to wipe corruption off the face of the planet with his own two hands. When one character suggests that he cannot solve all of the world’s problems with a shotgun, he sadly laments, “It’s all I know.” It’s there that you realize how much Hauer brings to the table. In the hands of a lesser thespian, this line would’ve felt ridiculously cheesy. Hauer, on the other hand, thoroughly understands his character’s plight, regardless of how outrageous it may seem to those around him.
But don’t get me wrong — the majority of this maniacal motion picture is dedicated to good, old-fashioned gore, which Eisener delivers in gleeful abundance. His presentation of the material couldn’t be smarter, and while you will see the occasional nod to the films which inspired him — keep your eyes peeled for the nifty “Evil Dead 2” homage — “Hobo with a Shotgun” is most certainly its own entity. The supporting cast is strong as well, including a unexpectedly delightful performance from “Everwood” star Gregory Smith. I haven’t seen much from this guy since he’s crossed over into adulthood, though I’m anxious to see what else he’s got up his sleeve. Smith’s scene-chewing turn as professional douche bag Slick is easily one of the film’s biggest surprises. Watching him do terrible things to kids with a flame-thrower is as unnerving as it is darkly hilarious.
“Hobo with a Shotgun” is one of the best movies I’ve seen thus far this year, and is a perfect companion piece to the likes of “Machete”, Richard Griffin’s “Nun of That”, and Drew Bolduc and Dan Nelson’s “The Taint”. It’s a modern-day grindhouse movie that isn’t necessarily trying to be a grindhouse movie. Sure, it may use a familiar template to tell its story, but Eisener and company aren’t content to deliver a winking tribute to the bygone days of 42nd Street. Rutger Hauer is the reason you’ll want to watch, as its his performance that ultimately keeps this crude and sinister exploitation flick from becoming yet another emotionally defunct excursion into mean-spirited carnage. For those of you who are itching to dip your toes into like-minded waters, you may want to take a page or two from “Hobo with a Shotgun”. Anyone with a camera and some flake blood can make a grindhouse flick, but it takes a true talent to make the genre their own.
Jason Eisener (director) / Jason Eisener, John Davis, and Rob Cotterill (story and screenplay)
CAST: Rutger Hauer … Hobo
Gregory Smith … Slick
Molly Dunsworth … Abby
Nick Bateman … Ivan / RIP
Brian Downey … Drake
Jeremy Akerman … Chief Wakeum