out of Five
Running time: 86
Impressively directed and featuring a terrific performance from Rutger Hauer, this is an entertaining, absurdly violent exploitation thriller that's pretty much non-stop action and doesn't skimp on the gore factor.
What's it all about?
Directed by Jason Eisener, Hobo With A Shotgun is based on a competition-winning trailer that was included on the Canadian release of 2007's Grindhouse and stars Rutger Hauer as, well, a hobo with a shotgun. When the unnamed hobo arrives in Hopetown (renamed Scumtown on the sign, though everyone refers to it as Fucktown), he finds it ruled by vicious local gangster Drake (Brian Downey) and his two sadistic sons Slick (Gregory Smith) and Ivan (Nick Bateman).
Despite witnessing Drake and his sons murdering one of their own family members when he first arrives, Hobo initially keeps his head down, intending to buy a lawnmower in order to earn a living. However, after he saves kindly prostitute Abby (Molly Dunsworth) from Slick and Ivan, Hobo decides that enough is enough and he spends his lawnmower money on a shotgun instead, before embarking on a blood soaked clean-up-the-streets campaign.
Essentially, this is the film that Machete should have been: Eisener directs with obvious affection for the exploitation genre and the film has such a 1980s vibe that it feels like its natural home is a charity shop bargain bin with other straight-to-VHS shlock-fests. This is heightened by some skilled pastiche work that extends to blocky yellow credits, a gloriously synth-heavy soundtrack and a strong use of garishly coloured photography, courtesy of cinematographer Karim Hussein.
Hauer is terrific as Hobo, dispensing shotgun-based justice with impunity and growling his way through some amusing speeches (including a monologue about thinking the pain away and an extended metaphor about bears). Similarly, Dunsworth is excellent as the tart with a heart (who has a knack with a customised lawnmower), while Downey, Smith and Bateman are all clearly enjoying themselves as the ludicrously evil trio (at one point the boys torch a school bus full of children with a flame-thrower – it's that kind of film).
The gore effects are extremely well done and some of the set-pieces are imaginatively staged, if rather gruesome. In addition, Eisener has a strong eye for surreal throwaway touches (such as the brothers fighting a giant octopus) and there are several blackly comic highlights (e.g. Paedo Santa).
Much closer to the Grindhouse spirit than the likes of Machete, Hobo with a Shotgun is a hugely enjoyable, absurdly violent exploitation thriller that does exactly what it says on the tin. Recommended.