First things first. If you don’t “get” exploitation filmmaking, nothing we say here is going to make you understand. Nor is it going to convince you to watch Hobo With a Shotgun, the Sundance darling from Michael Eisener now working its way through a platform release which includes pay-per-view digital download. The sensationalistic style of filmmaking is certainly an acquired taste and owes much of its current-day revival to purists, nostalgiacs and curiosity seekers. If its self-serving lavishness and indulgent excess never appealed to you in the past, then stay far way from Hobo with a Shotgun.
If, on the other hand, you get a rise from a film willing to tear to shreds the envelope of good taste and convention before lighting it on fire with an entire can of lighter fluid and a whole box of kitchen matches… and then grinding it all into the dirt with a booted foot, then head to the box office now.
A ‘70s-style opening sequence - complete with retro graphics, celluloid scratches, audio pops, and a shout-out to glorious Technicolor - highlights the titular hobo’s (Rutger Hauer) arrival into a new city some call Scum Town. What others sometimes call it rhymes with puck town.
What the grizzled, scratchy-voiced hobo observes upon setting foot off the train, rivals something out of A Clockwork Orange. A make-believe city permeating with crime, disease, and a citizenry that long ago surrendered to its bleak destiny. Where graffiti dominates the landscape and criminals prowl the streets under the rule of a crime lord named The Drake (Brian Downey) whom we first meet arranging a spectacularly gruesome beheading involving an open manhole, a crown of razor wire, and a manhole cover-sized yoke around the neck and his enemy. The resulting fountain of blood (can that really be a spoiler in a film like this) sets the film’s over-the-top tone. Eisener’s frequent use of Dutch angles, excessive cuts, and a constantly moving camera, owes its influence to the early films of Sam Raimi and Peter Jackson.
To the hobo, a second-hand lawnmower hanging in a pawnshop window represents a means of cleaning up the city and starting a new life for himself. But the shotgun hanging one notch higher might be a more practical means of survival. In any other film, the irony of the character’s transformation might be worth studying: a societal reject outraged at the appalling state of the very civilization that has disowned him. But this is Hobo with a Shotgun! There’ll be no time for contemplation of such pompous nonsense. More people to kill.
The film’s middle is populated by a montage of the hobo dispatching scumbags with his trusty pump-action scattergun. No one’s safe from hobo justice, including crooked cops, pedophile Santas, and an endless supply of gold-toothed pimps. Even Slick and Ivan (Gregory Smith and Nick Batemen), The Drake’s preppy sons who aren’t above torching a school bus full of children with a flame-thrower, have a go with the homeless guardian angel.
Naturally, it’s all artfully done, sometimes only streams of blood splattering the bearded shooter’s face, other times the victim’s abdomen opening up before spilling guts onto the floor. Before it’s all over, we’ve been treated to an incredibly diverse array of homemade weaponry, ranging from ice skates to harpoons, and lawnmowers to toasters. Did you know a maimed limb could become an effective weapon?
Hobo with a Shotgun certainly delivers on its promises of excess. And we’re never above chalking up its many flaws to tone and style. As the film grinds through its choppy pacing, the atmosphere takes on a dreamlike quality, everything drenched in a Technicolor haze. And believe it or not, beneath the pile of bodies and layers of geeky excess lies a bit of heart in the form of a fair-haired maiden (OK, she’s actually a trashy hooker) named Abby (Molly Dunsworth) who joins forces with the hobo. Together they find themselves embroiled in a grindhouse Troma even the great Lloyd Kaufman would be proud of.
MPAA Rating: This title has not been rated by the MPAA.
Director: Jason Eisener
Writer: John Davies
Cast: Rutger Hauer; Nick Bateman; Molly Dunsworth; Nick Bateman; Gregory Smith; Jeremy Akerman
Genre: Action | Comedy | Crime
Memorable Movie Quote: "I'm gonna wash this blood off with your blood."
Tagline: Delivering justice, one shell at a time...
Distributor: Magnet Releasing
Official Site: www.magnetreleasing.com/hobowithashotgun
Release Date: January 21, 2011 (Sundance Film Festival); May 27, 2011
Blu-ray Release Date: July 5, 2011
Plot Synopsis: A train pulls into the station – it’s the end of the line. A Hobo jumps from a freight car, hoping for a fresh start in a new city. Instead, he finds himself trapped in an urban hell. This is a world where criminals rule the streets and Drake, the city’s crime boss, reigns supreme alongside his sadistic murderous sons, Slick & Ivan. Amidst the chaos, the Hobo comes across a pawn shop window displaying a second hand lawn mower. He dreams of making the city a beautiful place and starting a new life for himself. But as the brutality continues to rage around him, he notices a shotgun hanging above the lawn mower... Quickly, he realizes the only way to make a difference in this town is with that gun in his hand and two shells in its chamber..
Available on Blu-ray - July 5, 2011
Screen Formats: 2.40:1
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD); Digital copy (as download); BD-Live
Playback: Region A
Splattering across the screen with a bloody ripe 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encoded (2.40:1) transfer is Magnet’s presentation of Hobo with a Shotgun. It’s oversaturated on purpose so don’t adjust your settings; this is supposed to be the 1970’s all over again. Orange and red colors are upfront in a stylized manner and the contrast is high. Another artistic choice. Black levels are thick and inky and unaffected by the crush of reds and high contrast effects. The DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is dynamic and fully active, surrounding the action with thick sounds of impact, mayhem, and destruction.
Two commentaries are presented with this release.
- The first one is an engaging conversation between director Jason Eisener and star Rutger Hauer about the making of the film and its Canadian shoot. Rich with enthusiasm, the commentary is a great listen.
- The second one, featuring Eisener, writer John Davies, producer Rob Cotterill and David Brunt (the original Hobo in the faux trailer) is more technical and less energetic. While it still features some pretty good information, this commentary is more for those interested for those less interested in the scene-specific information.
While we aren’t sure what exactly makes this release a collector’s edition (as it is being billed as), there are certainly a lot of supplemental material making this release informative and enjoyable. The 45-minute Making Of documentary is energetic and loads of fun and it highlights the joy of making a film. The test footage is interesting and the interviews are thorough. The disc also includes the faux trailer that earned the filmmakers the attention in the first place.
The supplemental material is as follows:
- More Blood, More Heart: The Making of ‘Hobo with a Shotgun’ (45 min)
- Alternate Ending (1 min)
- Video Blogs (7 min)
- Camera Test Reel (3 min)
- Fangoria Interviews (45 min)
- HDNet: A Look at ‘Hobo with a Shotgun’ (5 min)
- Grindhouse Trailer Contest Winner (2 min)
- ‘Hobo with a Shotgun’ Faux Trailer Contest Winner (2 min)
- Deleted Scenes (6 min)