Hobo with a Shotgun is a film in the tradition of those ridiculous 70s exploitation films. But unlike most grindhouse films, Hobo with a Shotgun is actually a lot of fun. Starring Rutger Hauer as the titular hobo, the movie screened at this week’s uber popular SXSW film fest in Austin to sold-out theatres. The response was overwhelming, and luckily for those not attending SXSW this entertaining genre film gets a theatrical release this spring.
Once you get past the fact that the protagonist of this film is a homeless bum, this movie kind of grows on you. Hauer plays the good-hearted but probably crazy hobo who goes homicidal. He rides the rails (in this great vintaged feeling opening sequence with the open-air train car and the cheesy music) into a town gone wrong. It’s just about the most corrupt town in the world, with dirty cops, a sadistic kingpin named the Drake killing and torturing whoever he wants, and two of his crazy sons burning school buses (with children in them). There is also, of course, the prostitute with the heart of gold, and an old pawn shop with the lawn mower of his dreams.
The Hobo at first tries to ignore all the corruption and craziness around him. When he finally stands up to the Drake’s psychotic son Slick and rescues the vulnerable prostitute named Abby from his evil clutches, things really start going to hell in a handcart (or a shopping cart). After getting carved up (literally), the hobo finds succor in the gentle administrations of Abby. He takes his life savings (a sock of change) and goes to the local pawn shop to buy the lawn mower he saw in the window, a lawn mower that will allow him to start his own mowing business. But when he gets to the pawn shop the town’s crime drives him to the edge, and over it. Instead of the mower, he buys a shotgun. And with that shotgun he goes on a killing spree, cleaning up the town in his own way.
Hobo with a Shotgun started as a fake grindhouse movie trailer. It won a contest promoting Robert Rodriguez’s and Quentin Tarantino’s Grindhouse movie and earned a place among other fake trailers run at the beginning of that film. Then director Jason Eisener had the opportunity to take his brain child and make it into a feature-length film, and what’s more, he got his top-choice actor (Hauer) to fill the main role. Written by John Davies, the storyline and dialogue are what you would expect from this kind of film. They’ve taken a trailer about a hobo on a death rampage and made it into an hour and a half length film. What’s more amazing, it’s not that bad.
I’m not a fan of grindhouse movies, and most of the grindhouse films of today are just silly, low-budget vehicles for gratuitous violence, bad dialogue, and plenty of tits and ass. What worked in Hobo with a Shotgun that doesn’t in most of these modern genre films is the humor. I’m not sure the humor was planned, but it’s there. The fact that Hauer’s character delivers grandiose and ridiculous statements with complete deadpan or touching sensitivity just makes for some really funny moments. Also, the gratuitous violence was there, but I didn’t feel the female exploitation was as bad as in some of Rodriguez’s stuff. Maybe it was Hauer’s acting mastery that made Hobo with a Shotgun a cut above other films of its kind. Hauer made a crazy bum likeable, which is a feat in and of itself. He delivers his dialogue with an insane kind of earnestness, and it just comes across as wildly amusing.
The other actors, attempting to capture the typical grindhouse feel with purposefully (we hope) bad acting, made the film fun to watch. With plenty of histrionics and poor timing Gregory Smith, Molly Dunsworth and Brian Downey sucked it up on camera in a good way.
Interestingly, another one of the fake trailers attached to Grindhouse was recently made into a feature-length film. Some of you may remember Machete when it came out in theatres; a prime example of an homage to the 70s exploitation film genre gone wrong. Rodriguez simply went too far, and took his film too seriously. Eisener’s film has the excess and the silliness, but it feels more like it’s poking fun at the genre (in a friendly way) then trying to pay homage to it. Don’t forget, movie-goers, that this film is still basically a grindhouse movie, so expect lots of carnage, gore, ridiculous scenarios and over-the-top bad dialogue. But in a somewhat refreshing difference, also expect plenty of funny moments and a note-worthy performance from Hauer.
Hobo With A Shotgun is a film in the tradition of 70s exploitation films. But unlike most grindhouse films, this one is actually awesome.