D. Jason Eisner
1.85 VOD and Theatrical
As most of you know HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN began life as part of the SXSW festival contest when GRINDHOUSE came out to have fans create fake trailers in the 70’s gritty exploitation style. HOBO was without a doubt the ONE entry that nailed the vibe best in every way right down to the fonts used for the on screen credits. If no one told you, one could easily had been fooled to believe it was a lost 70’s film. The fake trailer rightfully won the contest and even played with GRINDHOUSE in Canada.
So naturally it was only right that an actual movie be made from the concept and the Internet community rallied behind the idea. It has taken almost five years to get completed but we finally have a feature film version of HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN with a name star in the title role. But the final product lacks that retro punch the original trailer had. In fact it feels more like a modern video game released by Troma, than some lost Grindhouse gem.
Rutger Hauer plays the lead character simply named Hobo, who strolls into a small town just in time to see some poor smchuck trotted into the middle of the street, tortured and beheaded by a crime family. The town is held under the thumb of Drake (Brian Downey) a cartoon Mafioso and his two even more cartoonish sons Slick (Gregory Smith) and Ivan (Nick Bateman). The Hobo wonders through the town and witnesses other atrocities too like a Pedophile Santa kidnapping kids, a black pimp whoring young teens girls etc. He follows Slick to the hide out and bemusedly watches a whole bunch of people tortured and murdered until we meet Abby the typical Hooker with the Heart of Gold who for some reason prompts the Hobo to finally step in and stop Slick from hurting her. There is some more tit for tat, but his deed ultimately lands him all carved up and with Abby taking care of him for a while.
The movie takes a good forty or so minutes before it gets to the events of the original trailer when he gets the shotgun and starts going ballistic in a scene that is admittedly pretty satisfying. But then the events of the trailer are merged down into basically a montage of him finding and wasting the scum of the town and then it is back to the annoying bad guys and their screen time.
That is the biggest problem with the movie. Whenever the movie is with the Hobo it works just fine. Hauer is committed to the performance and has good chemistry with his female lead. But anytime the movie goes back to the villains, which is often, it just becomes ridiculous. A purposely over the top, offensive, cartoon that is trying too hard to get in your face. Instead it just becomes annoying and ultimately kind of empty. I felt like I was watching a live action episode of SOUTH PARK with Terrence and Phillip as bad guys.
There are a couple of places where the film attempts some social commentary such as a nod to the BUMFIGHTS thing and a well done speech about how the streets are “their” (meaning the homeless) homes and how the people of the town need to have some respect for them. I certainly respected that those moments are there. I just wished the material around them had been as well handled as these few scenes.
By the end of the movie it struck as to why I was not responding to the movie the way so many of my friends and peers have. So many people I know have declared this a modern classic, the “grindhouse” movie done right etc. But near the climax of the movie a pair of armored goons called “The Plague” are sent after the Hobo. In the process they decimate and entire Hospital full of people in a scene that should have had me breathless. Instead it had me bored to tears. This scene and the scene earlier when the Hobo watches Slick in his hideout torture and kill several people for fun clicked with me as to why this movie doesn’t work. It is nothing but a big, bloody, video game. There may not be a HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN video game, but there might as well be because that is exactly how it feels. A lot of these faux Grindhouse movies that have come in the wake of the Rodriguiz/Tarrantino collaboration feel the exact same way. Maximum offensiveness, maximum body count, minimum character or attention to script. Tell them it is a tribute to the 70’s & 80’s movies but instead it plays like you are just a player in a video game.
The last fifteen minutes of this movie feel just like that. Oddly enough 90% of the people I know who watched it, did so on a Playstation 3 if that tells you anything.
So to me almost half the movie works. The scenes with the Hobo interacting with the Hooker as good stuff. The scene with him telling the babies in the Hospital how much their lives are going to suck is pure gold. The scene when he finally gets the gun and goes on his rampage is what the rest of the movie should be like. But nearly all the other stuff felt like some other movie that I really couldn’t wait to be over so I could get back to the OTHER movie I was enjoying.
I get the feeling I am going to get a TON of hate mail over this one...
Original HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN Fake Trailer
New HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN movie Trailer
Review © Andy Copp