‘Hobo with a Shotgun’ is a screamer of a winning goal in the grindhouse revival that was innovated by Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino in the 2007 double feature ‘Grindhouse’. Their respective films in that truly unique cinematic experience, with the best zombie offering since Zack Snyder’s 2004 redux of ‘Dawn of the Dead’ with ‘Planet Terror’, and the semi-successful thriller ‘Death Proof’ (Tarantino’s worst movie to date, but still well worth a look) were each bookended by a very convincing set of faux trailers. Directed by numerous fresh talented filmmakers catering for different genres, made like those two features in the B movie style of exploitation films shown in the grindhouse theatres of yesterday year – they are now being made into full-length features themselves.
First last year, it was the also directed Rodriquez trailer ‘Machete’ that got the full feature treatment. Co-directed by himself with long time collaborating editor Ethan Maniquis, and although it is an overall enjoyably cartoonish entertaining time, this action thriller’s unevenness in the directing styles of its two different directors made for awkward pacing. There was also a distinct lack of authenticity in terms of it having a genuine B movie exploitation look and feel – a far too polished production to achieve that, despite using some of the actual footage from the original ‘Grindhouse’ trailer. However, at last we have the much-anticipated ‘Hobo with a Shotgun’, which started life by its director Jason Eisener, writer John Davies, and co-producer Rob Cotterill, winning Robert Rodriquez’s international grindhouse trailers contest at the South by Southwest festival, with the original fake trailer its based upon. Featured with ‘Grindhouse’ in selected theatres mostly in Canada, it proved to be one of the most popular of the false trailers with audiences – see it here.
I will not bother with a synopsis; if you want to read one go to Creepy Crawler’s negative review here. As the now full-length feature’s tagline states “DELIVERING JUSTICE ONE SHELL AT A TIME”, ‘Hobo with a Shotgun’ certainly lives up to that promise and does not disappoint. It delivers an unapologetically over the top intentional cheesefest, in homage to a kind of filmmaking that produced trash purely for cheap thrills. Its tongue firmly in cheek nudge nudge wink wink approach distracts us in ever taking seriously the immense amount of jaw dropping goretastic bloody displays, which is at a constant non-stop rate. The humorous Troma like spin on the gratuitous violence is what lends to the film’s success; being just one of the most shamelessly entertaining times in pure unadulterated blood soaked mayhem that I have seen in absolutely ages.
One of Creepy’s complaints was that it just could not copy the original grindhouse movies with its superior production values; pointing out that those old exploitation flicks were limited to showcase a small to modest amount of showstoppers in terms of eye popping violence, and between those set-pieces were injections of atmosphere. While I agree that this was the case with their measly budgets, ‘Hobo with a Shotgun’ just has the privilege of having a $3 million spending spree to amp up the more blood there is the better sequences that those filmmakers back in the day wish they had, and more the power to Eisener for that. He is able to spray the claret very predominately over the lean 86 minutes running time, and it captures perfectly the other stylistic traits that made those exploitative endeavours get such solid cult followings over the years. As well as the violence, it is all here – sex entailing the mistreatment of women, far out bizarre subject matter incorporated in an equally loopy plot, whacky characters (wait until you get a load of The Plague, which just screams out spin off!), etc.
As well as recreating the grindhouse elements, Jason Eisener shows off some other inspired direction; with very fine pacing throughout, he also impressively pulls off a John Carpenter by making the small locations of “Fuck Town” bigger than what they actually are, all the while employing a palette that is dripping with colours. This is a directorial talent to watch. The performances are very strong all round. Rutger Hauer is at his coolest best here in the title role, echoing his heyday of the ‘Blade Runner’ and ‘The Hitcher’ era. Embittered, fearless, grizzled, moody, relatable in his quest for justice that draws our sympathies, he plays the part of the stranger riding into town and clearing up the scum off the streets with much glee; he is really loving this role. A part of old school vigilante movies in using this western set-up, and Hauer even arrives into town to a spaghetti western style theme, and as Creepy Crawler said it incorporates samples of the main ‘Cannibal Holocaust’ title music.
Other notable performances are Molly Dunsworth as the prostitute with a heart, Abby, and Brian Downey as the movie’s villain The Drake; a wonderfully campy bat shit crazy turn. As you can probably tell from the title of this article with the cheeky play on one of the film’s quotes, there is an array of effortlessly quotable lines of OTT dialogue. “Put the knife away, kid… or I’ll use it to cut welfare checks from your rotten skin!”, “I’m gonna sleep in your bloody carcasses tonight!”, and “You and me are goin’ on a car-ride to hell… and you’re riding shotgun!” – are just a few of the golden greats.
I’m leaving this review spoilers free, because who am I to ruin such a good time; ‘Hobo with a Shotgun’ is destined to become one of those home video favourites that will forever garner repeated viewings with such ease, whether you are alone or with a group of friends. This is a masterpiece of fun beer and pizza flicks, and is undoubtedly the best of the new wave of grindhouse movies to date – an epic piece of insane exploitative entertainment