Movie Review: Hobo with a Shotgun (2011)

Hobo with a Shotgun review
Rutger Hauer in Hobo with a Shotgun
Photo: Magnet Releasing

Hobo with a Shotgun is terrible, and for me to dedicate more than those six words to this review is to give it more than it deserves. But the unwritten rules say I have to be fair and make a case for my opinion, which in this case is fine since I have a few questions I think need to be asked.

This is the second film to come out of the fake trailer sector in recent years. Similar to Robert Rodriguez’s Machete, Hobo with a Shotgun started as a result of the Quentin Tarantino and Rodriguez 2007 teaming, Grindhouse. Co-writer and director Jason Eisener’s Hobo with a Shotgun fake trailer was the winner of a contest that saw his trailer played in front of screenings of Grindhouse in Canada. A year later Eisener became a mild online sensation with his Christmas tree related horror short Treevenge. And now, he’s been given enough money to turn his original Hobo short into a full fleged feature film. For this, I applaud Eisener. He duped ’em all.

Eisener deserves some respect. Grindhouse films bask in the glory of exploitation, horror and the outlandish and in this regard Eisener has made the perfect film. In fact, he’s made more of a grindhouse film than the two films Tarantino and Rodriguez delivered with Death Proof and Planet Terror. I’d even go as far as to say this is the first film I’ve seen that actually paid homage to a genre that actually achieved its goal. That said, I am the type of moviegoer to watch the kind of grindhouse films Tarantino and Rodriguez made, but what Hobo with a Shotgun delivers is the kind of film that would be shown in a theater I wouldn’t dare sit in the grimy seats for fear the person who sat down before me didn’t know how to use a toilet.

Following the story of the titular hobo (Rutger Hauer), Hobo with a Shotgun is set on the ravaged streets of Hope Town where the crime boss known as The Drake (Brian Downey) doles out punishment without consequence. This may include such activities as wrapping a barbed wire noose around someone’s neck, stuffing them in a sewer hole, attaching the noose to a truck hitch and ripping their head off. As you’ve probably already deduced, this is followed by the age-old tradition of dancing in the fountain of blood emanating from the deceased’s neck. You know, every day stuff.

Why does The Drake do this? Just to make sure people know their place. When he’s not ripping people’s heads off or beating someone with a bat covered in razor blades, his two knucklehead sons Slick (Gregory Smith) and Ivan (Nick Bateman) are busy taking a flame thrower to a school bus full of children while dressing up like Tom Cruise in Risky Business. Or is it Judd Nelson in The Breakfast Club? Or does it even matter?

As a result, our now resident hobo teams with a local prostitute (Molly Dunsworth) to deliver some vigilante justice. He does this, as the title insinuates, with a shotgun. Blood flows, charred children are placed on display, bones are used as stabbing devices, etc. Add to that dialogue such as “I’d eat the peanuts out of her shit,” and I have to ask… Are you interested yet?

Now you’re first reaction may be to wonder why I would even watch this film. It’s a fair question. My answer is to say I didn’t expect what I ultimately received. I expected something fun, because I do believe over-the-top violence can be fun. This was not fun. This was pointless drivel and not to the point where I was offended, but to the point I wanted to ask, “Why?” and “What’s fun about this?” Because it’s clearly meant to be fun.

Does Eisener get off on this? If so, at what point does he find true enjoyment? Is it the scene I detailed earlier when a school bus full of elementary kids are torched? Perhaps when one of those children is played like a ventriloquist dummy on television? Or maybe when a girl’s hand goes through the blades of a lawnmower like it was carrots in a food processor? If the point was to say these people are sick… I get it… but what does it say about the people in the audience that manage to find some enjoyment in it?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not judging. I’m just trying to understand because I don’t get it. Hobo with a Shotgun isn’t overly realistic. In fact it’s quite obviously cheap and low budget. So it’s not a matter of being grossed out by what’s on display as much as it’s a confusion resulting from the content.

Maybe I’m being naive and there was some grand takeaway. Maybe I just don’t get it. Either way, I wish someone would explain it to me.