Hobo with a Shotgun
Dir: Jason Eisener
Despite his recent absence from high profile films, Rutger Hauer has not ceased working. The star of much-loved ’80s films such as Blade Runner and The Hitcher has padded his resume in the decades since appearing in little-remembered fare ranging from low budget sci-fi thrillers (Redline) to low budget horror (Bone Daddy), as well as bit parts in Sin City and Batman Begins. But leave it to the reinvigoration of the Grindhouse craze by Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino to get a Hauer vehicle back in the spotlight. Yet, I guarantee you that Hobo with a Shotgun is no better than recent Hauer cheapies Sword of War and Dead Tone.
Much like last year’s Machete, Hobo is based on a fake trailer (starring Dave Brunt as the Hobo) that played during the Rodriguez/Tarantino double feature Grindhouse. If it sounds unfamiliar, that is because this one only played before select screenings, the large portion of them in Canada. But while I thoroughly loved Rodriguez’s feature-length rendering of Machete, I found Jason Eisener’s film loathsome and almost unwatchable despite Hauer’s spirited performance.
I know, I know – what else did I expect from a film called Hobo with a Shotgun? Machete, despite its over-the-top violence, was instilled with prescient border politics that lampooned the Lou Dobbs and backhanded politics circa 2010. Hobo does little else but recall poorly made splatterhouse flicks. While its goal to remain pure to its inspiration is admirable and it doesn’t fall prey to the winking meta proclivities that Tarantino and Rodriguez showered upon Planet Terror, Death Proof and Machete, but this straight-ahead technique is also the film’s downfall.
Hauer, his face now striated with wrinkles, is the Hobo who rides into a shitty town on a boxcar looking for a place to set up a lawn mowing business. Unfortunately, he chooses a town run by The Drake (Brian Downey), a white-suited nutcase who exists for little else but to torture the homeless in elaborate gory ways (think a razor-studded baseball bat and nooses made of barbed wire) along with his numbskull sons Slick (Gregory Smith, one of the worst actors I’ve seen in a long time and I don’t care if he was lampooning his role) and Ivan (Nick Bateman, he pretty much sucked too). Despite eating out of dumpsters, Hauer’s nameless Hobo is a bastion of goodness. All the violence and degradation in the nameless town fills him with a rage but it takes at least 30 minutes for him to reach for that shotgun as he is beaten, carved into by Nick and Ivan and forced to eat broken glass. Never mind we have yet another hooker with a heart of gold (Molly Dunsworth) who becomes his one true ally, but Hauer’s Hobo is mad as hell and it’s time to kick ass and take names later.
Filmed in oversaturated color that makes you want to squint, Hobo with a Shotgun is a knowingly vile 86 minutes filled not only with shitty special effects and gore but some of the worst acting I’ve seen in a long time. Yes, Tarantino and Rodriguez may have turned away from the true grindhouse aesthetic by using folks such as Robert De Niro, Rosario Dawson and Bruce Willis in their homages but watching these actors perform in reverie is infinitely more interesting than watching flat-out bad acting. Hauer does elevate any scene he appears in, channeling the same frightening intensity that made him so terrifying in The Hitcher, but everyone else around him is so one-note that each shotgun blast is a welcome respite from their horrible acting.
Hobo with a Shotgun reminds me of some the sequels that appeared at the ass-end of Nightmare on Elm Street series. Each death is gorier and more ridiculous than the prior one and Hauer’s catchphrases, like those of Freddy Krueger, fall completely flat (“You and me are goin’ on a car-ride to hell… and you’re riding shotgun!” is one of the better ones). So, yes, Hobo with a Shotgun is supposed to be bad. But that level of horribleness was actually someone’s goal. I’m happy to see Hauer is still blowing folks away but I really do hope that the rest of the actors in this film never, ever work in front of the camera again.
by David Harris