SXSW ’11: Hobo With a Shotgun – Review


Hauer’s performance akin to a shotgun blast of awesome to the face

Say what you will about Hobo With a Shotgun, but it knows its roots. You can call the film tonally violent, haphazardly plotted or as subtle as tattooing a middle finger on your forehead but there’s one thing you can’t call the film — a sellout.

In the grimy Rutger Hauer-starring film, director Jason Eisener fleshes out and adapts his award-winning faux film trailer submitted as part of 2007′ South by Southwest’s grindhouse trailer contest. While Robert Rodriguez’s Machete, another film born from the fake trailers included with the Rodriguez/Quentin Tarantino collaboration, failed to maintain the same non-stop barrage of crazy that had been featured in its condensed version, Eisener’s film begins by clamping onto your leg like a pit-bull and never lets go.

Hauer stars as an unnamed Hobo, a bear fact-quoting vagabond who wonders into town searching for something akin to peace and winds up wielding a shotgun and dealing out justice to the criminal scum that walk the earth.

Hauer plays the role completely straight — filling it with an impressive amount of pathos and emotion. While the role could have easily had been a one-note parody — pushing the limits of taste without pushing the limits of Hauer as an actor — Rutger Hauer gives the role his all and his dedication pays off.

As if to compliment Hauer’s commitment, Eisener and writer John Davies try and cram as much non-stop craziness as possible into the rubble left around Hauer’s scene-destroying performance. From masturbating child molesters dressed as Santa Claus to former teen heartthrob Gregory Smith as a whore-slapping son of a crime kingpin to a particularly nasty scene involving a manhole cover with a hole in it, a man’s neck and a barb wire noose, Hobo With a Shotgun shoots for the moon when dreaming up nastiness for the Hobo to shotgun.

Providing a face to the wave of nasty that the Hobo must battle is Brian Downey as The Drake, a posturing crime lord who could very have been the love child of Joe Pesci and Tony Darrow.

Offering a shot at redemption for the Hobo is Molly Dunsworth as Abby, a streetwalker with the dream of turning her back on prostitution and becoming a teacher. After she discovers the Hobo brutally beaten and left for dead by the town’s corrupt cable of cops, she takes him in. Unfortunately, her relationship with the Hobo turns out to be both a gift and a curse, The Hobo gives Abby the courage to face her own demons head on but his violent lifestyle means she has physical demons to contend with too.

Hobo With a Shotgun is not a movie concerned with nuance. True to the hobo lifestyle that inspired it, the movie wraps itself in a grimy blanket of sleaze — giving the action and violence a wonderfully homemade appearance. Almost all the special effects are practical — letting the movie marinate in its old-school gore without drowning in the shiny, artificial nonsense of digital blood, computer enhanced dismemberments and the other related crap that has permeated horror movies in the last decade.

Even with the grit and grime the movie cloaks itself in, Hobo With a Shotgun has a nice colorful sheen to its proceedings — showering its sets with warm lights filters that give the film’s sets an almost comic book feel.

It could perhaps be argued that Hobo with a Shotgun is more an extended concept given room to breathe than a true, honest-to-god film. The plot, characters and conflicts seem to exist only to serve the film’s admittedly catchy title. Hauer’s genuinely good performance goes a long way towards making a case against this argument, though. Even if Hobo With a Shotgun is, in fact, a concept more than a movie — there’s nothing wrong with that. The experience is a fun one — provided of course, you’re not squeamish about blood, guts, dismemberments and the wild-eyed fury of Rutger Hauer.

Director: Jason Eisener
Notable Cast: Rutger Hauer, Brian Downey and Gregory Smith
Writer(s): John Davies

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