Hobo with a Shotgun isn’t very good. In fact, it’s pretty awful. The premise, a hobo, played by Rutger Hauer (Blade Runner, Soldier of Orange), hops off a train into a new town. Finding the town despicable and overrun by criminals, the hobo becomes a vigilante. He befriends a prostitute (Molly Dunsworth) and with her help takes on the city’s main crime boss: The Drake (Brian Downey). However, the film’s plot, which seems like a good idea, is instead a mediocre ride through cheap violence and sadism, offering nothing substantial.
I saw the trailer for this a few months ago and the local independent theater, The Enzian, was showing it at midnight on weekends for a week or two. The trailer made the film appear enjoyable, reminiscent of Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s recent forays into exploitation films from the ‘70s (Grindhouse, Machete); instead it’s like a bad college film with Rutger Hauer. Immediately after watching Hobo with a Shotgun I thought, “Oh, how Rutger Hauer has fallen.” Then I thought about Hauer’s career, which features a good amount of supporting roles, and realized he really didn’t fall that far. Here is the trailer, which makes the film seem enjoyable. However, all the good parts are featured in the preview:
Doesn’t that look like a fun 90 minutes? Unfortunately, it’s crap. The logo, derivative of grindhouse films from the ‘70s, is probably the only good thing about the film. I read somewhere the film won a Rodriguez sponsored Grindhouse trailer contest but just because a two minute foretaste looks entertaining doesn’t mean a fully funded version will work. It’s interesting too because supposedly Hobo With a Shotgun’s budget was $3 million dollars but it looks cheaper – I’m inclined to believe Hauer’s fee was about a third of that.
There are many elements of Hobo with a Shotgun reminiscent of Troma films from the 1980s – the bad acting, the overly simplistic characters, and the excessive gore – but even films like The Toxic Avenger and Troma’s War contain better acting. The actors in Hobo with a Shotgun weren’t thespians of any caliber and they even made Hauer’s performance shabby. The gore, which is plentiful, doesn’t really work because the film itself is so mundane. I was literally counting the minutes in Hobo’s third act.
The only positive thing about Hobo with a Shotgun is its commentary on municipal corruption. Almost every authority figure in the film is corrupt (there are a few honest cops scattered about) – the cops are in bed with the criminals and the criminals keep the city’s honest citizens fearful through violent spectacles. Its obvious Jason Eisener’s film exists in a completely fantastic environment but it’s not a world which is captivating; in fact, it’s pretty boring. Honestly, there’s nothing about this film which is entertaining except for its premise and when that’s expanded upon it falls into mediocrity. I wasn’t expecting anything realistic from a film called Hobo with a Shotgun but its social commentary is drowning in absurdity. While its subtext could discuss political corruption, even delving into ideas regarding capitalism’s positives and negative’s, it doesn’t.
Of course the film’s central character being homeless does say something about capitalism (obviously Hauer’s at the bottom rung of the ladder) but it doesn’t discuss the causes and possible solutions to the issue. There is one instance, where two men pay the homeless to withstand beatings, eat glass, and so forth (reminiscent of Bumfights), but it’s only commentary regards the shabby treatment of hobos – it doesn’t offer any solutions other than fighting violence with violence. Actually, it seems Eisener’s solution to every social ill is violence. I do enjoy violent exploitation films but even Tarantino’s side of Grindhouse (Death Proof) is a tongue-in-cheek exploration of sexism; Hobo with a Shotgun avoids this and just goes for the violence. I’d suggest avoiding it unless you get off on fake bloodshed for 90 minutes.