Hobo With A Shotgun is part of a new wave of exploitation films originating from 2007's Grindhouse (Tarantino/Rodriguez) and the fake trailers that were filmed to connect that double feature. The film is the debut feature from Jason Eisener, who won the competition to have his fake trailer appear in the Grindhouse feature and follows Robert Rodriguez's Machete (2010) as the only other trailer to get the feature length treatment. Rutger Haur (Blade Runner, The Hitcher) stars as the eponymous anti-hero who takes it upon himself to "deliver justice one shell at a time" as he aims to clean up the colourfully named "Scum Town".
It's pretty obvious from the outset how Scum Town earned its title, as we're treated to a barrage of violent hoodlums, aggressive prostitutes, a paedophile Santa and organised "bum fights" round every corner. As the Hobo is from out-of-town he has some difficulty adapting to the way of life here and soon runs into trouble with the ultra-violent locals. After finding no recourse through the corrupt local law enforcement, he decides to take matters into is own hands and instead of buying the lawn mower he was saving up for, purchases a shotgun. One person who doesn't take kindly to the Hobo's vigilante killing spree is local crime lord The Drake, and his psychotic offspring. After issuing a citywide order for vagrant genocide he also enlists the help of "The Plague", a pair of metal-clad demon bounty hunters, to bring the Hobo down. As Scum Town descends into chaos it's down to the Hobo, and his new-found hooker sidekick Abby, to enforce some law and order.
The main thing that strikes you about this film is the extreme levels of violence used to drive the plot forward and create a vibrant world for the characters to exist in. People who are unfamiliar with the exploitation genre will be quick to dismiss this as gratuitous and the dialogue as cheesy, but there is a hidden depth to these elements. The violence straddles a very interesting line between comic-book gore and realism, absurd and upsetting. Though some scenes may push the envelope too far (the school bus scene for example) there is a definite bravery and ambition in this type of film making, leaving it's audience gasping and wondering what could possibly happen next. Hobo delivers excess. Ultra violence, ultra-bad language and ultra offensiveness create what feels like some kind of psychedelic sensory overload.
Rutger Haur gives his best performance since Blade Runner as the hobo-with-no-name. Whether menacing or vulnerable, Haur is the grounded realistic character in a very exaggerated world. Extra emotional depth is provided through the Hobo's friendship with Abby, after she offers him shelter. The pair talk about their hopes and dreams and maybe setting up a gardening business together. This lends genuine warmth to the film and gives the viewer a breather from the relentless nihilism present throughout. This depth elevates the film far above the cheap video nasties that it's paying homage to and proves that extreme violence and gore can co-exist with a compelling storyline and genuine emotional core.
It is difficult to recommend Hobo With A Shotgun as I'm sure there are people out there that will be genuinely offended by the content and it's certainly not for the faint of heart. However for genre fans who seek out out kitsch, OTT grindhouse flicks this is destined for cult classic status. Eisener has publicly stated that he'd love to make a spin-off set in much the same universe but centred around The Plague and their historical bounty-hunting exploits, so we may yet see a quasi-sequel to the film. Extreme in every way possible Hobo will amuse, disgust, touch, offend and entertain, leaving viewers wide-eyed and amazed at this brilliant but volatile film.
5 stars *****
What did you think of Hobo? Was it too excessive?