Review: Hobo with a Shotgun


[Repost: This review was written from the Boston Underground Film Festival. Hobo is now in theaters.]

I don’t think Hobo with a Shotgun makes any promises beyond its title, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t expect more from it. As the newest entry in the semi-revived exploitation genre, Hobo sticks closer to its unrefined roots, far moreso than the comparatively tame-as-a-chihuahua Machete. At the same time, it dodges the artful, devoid of that Tarantino form and fun factor. We’re here today to reflect on hobos and shotguns in the most deplorable thing screened before midnight (the good news as well as the bad).

Only one man can ever save the lowest rent Post-Apocalyptica from being wholly indefensible: Rutger Hauer, as proven with Omega Doom for starters. Whatever judgment these movies deserve, nothing changes that. Every bit as enjoyable as we’ve come to expect, Hobo Hauer is a powerful kind of ugly. Never failing is the gentle spirit this Dutch actor brings out of every token action figure he’s forced to play for rent money.

At the end of a decapitation filled day, all the Hobo ever wanted was his own little lawn mowing business. It’s a modest man’s dream, but hope in hell-bent “Fucktown” can only be inspired by the barrel end. Witnessing one child abduction too many, the vagrant suffers difficult-to-witness indignation for the final amount, but cashes in his nickels for a shotgun instead of the garden tool he’s been channeling his pipe dreams through. “Hobo stops begging, demands change” a headline states. That’s as good as it gets in Hobo with a Shotgun. Sporadic moments of clever absurdity.

You’ll stomach nauseating camerawork, one liners that don’t carry a lick of logic, and blood soaked titties (yes this is a bad thing) until every sleek prince of darkness has his delusions of grandeur splattered by shattershot to the dick region. Sound like fun? As far as the Red-Band trailer goes, it is. Those pair of minutes imply a movie more epic in execution than Hobo actually is.

Re-experiencing those fully marketable but not-safe-for-work jaw droppers in the feature length version is like viewing them out of context. Yes, there’s a harrowing soliloquy delivered by Rutger Hauer, always a pleasure from the man who ad-libbed many of his famous lines in Blade Runner. The film’s technicolorscheme turns what might have been a boring, desaturated crime zone into an alien landscape of horrific possibility. It has a fetishistic tongue and cheek that mildly amuses and an 80’s throwback style tipping its hat to the ever-nostalgic denizens of the hairspray age. These are more enjoyable because they’re set to a soundtrack that pays homage to John Carpenter, who scored his similar setup in They Live.

Interesting parallels but still leagues apart. Don’t misunderstand me, Hobo with a Shotgun is a piece of shit. Basically some guys got this idea for a movie, right? They entered a contest with this idea they had and won based solely on “Hobo with a Shotgun.” So then they had a bunch of other ideas for their Hobo, but they didn’t know how to shoot them. They knew they wanted the dialogue to be totally wack, but they didn’t know how to write. At least we have guns, right? Lotta good they’re gonna do if you can’t stage action sequences worth a damn.

Rutger Hauer holds his own fully rounded performance that somehow shines through severed limbs and burning babies. Innocent blue eyes one moment, snarl faced nightmare the next. At his most charming by a wounded girl’s bedside, she wakes up for a fine moment in this film. It’s simple, it’s crystal clear.

“Hey you.”

“Welcome back.”

“It’s good to see you.”

That scene is like a direct message to Hauer, the actor who never stopped acting but where has he been? I really don’t understand how someone with that much natural talent can continue to be lowered. In a perfect world he would still make Hobo with a Shotgun, but just to prove he doesn’t take himself too seriously. Imagine how easily Mel Gibson could have saved his career this way.

The reality: Hobo with a Shotgun is the biggest exposure this fine actor has had since a cameo appearance in Sin City. Hauer is here surrounded by others that are so bad, they’re worse. In his presence it’s more apparent, though one hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold seems to hold her own just fine.

Are there worse movies of this variety? Tons, but they don’t get released across the country, last I checked. As someone who called for the neo-Grindhouse to be more Grindhousey, I wish I’d kept my mouth shut. The people behind Hobo with a Shotgun spend so much time pushing the envelope that they hope you’ll forgive them for mailing it in. Whoever this cacophony of sleaze was made for, they will NOT be disappointed. For everyone else, at least it’s Rutger Hauer?

Overall Score: 5.05 – Bad. (5s are movies that either failed at reaching the goals it set out to do, or didn’t set out to do anything special and still had many flaws. Some will enjoy 5s, but unless you’re a fan of this genre, you shouldn’t see it, and might not even want to rent it.)