Director: Jason Eisener
Writers: John Davies, Jason Eisener, Rob Cotterill
Cinematographer: Karim Hussain
Stars: Rutger Hauer, Gregory Smith, Molly Dunsworth, Brian Downey
Studio/Running Time: Magnet Releasing, 86 min.
Who would have thought that the fake trailers from Grindhouse would have ended up starting a cottage industry of B-movies? Following in the footsteps of Robert Rodriguez’s Machete, Hobo with a Shotgun began as a fan submission in a contest to be part of the feature. Although it was largely just shown in Canada, it attracted a big enough online fanbase to find funding for an extremely low-budget feature in the same style as the rest of the Grindhouse fare.
The film’s title pretty much says it all as far as the plot’s concerned. After riding into town on a train (of course), our titular hobo ends up in a horribly violent, corrupt city where homeless people in particular are disrespected. After saving a prostitute from rape and murder by the local thugs, the hobo becomes a vigilante dedicated to rooting out evil and whenever possible shooting it with a shotgun. But this turns against him when the city’s frightened citizens turn against him at the command of the criminals, who’ve largely taken the city hostage until the hobo is killed.
Unsurprisingly Hobo with a Shotgun is shot in the style of ‘60s and ‘70s exploitation films—and what a style it is. Angles and lenses are fantastically weird and off-kilter, while its lighting is expressionistic and wonderful. Whole scenes are shot with just one color and the effect is low-budget but fantastic.
The main question with a film like Hobo with a Shotgun is whether it will be a bad movie or a good movie done in the style of a bad movie. Grindhouse offers the best example of this difference: Planet Terror being pretty lousy in every respect while Death Proof was made as a B-movie but in every way both captured the spirit of the style and transcended it. Hobo with a Shotgun doesn’t aspire to as much as either of those features, but in every respect it delivers on what it’s trying to achieve. It’s knowing about its ridiculousness but not in a way that cheats out of its contract with the audience. The violence, sex, terrible lines and over-the-top style are all in there, but so is an understandable story with empathetic characters. Hobo with a Shotgun is obviously not for everyone, but it’ll be a pleasant surprise for anyone who heard the name and wanted to see if the film could live up to its promise.