Hobo With a Shotgun is the best in-house Troma film that Troma never made.
By now everyone’s heard the story about how this feature came into existence, but here’s a quick refresher. To help promote Grindhouse Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez held a contest for fake movie trailers with the idea that the winner would be sandwiched between the two films. Jason Eisener’s hysterical Hobo With A Shotgun trailer was the clear winner with the most polished and entertaining entry by far. Sadly it only made it to a few screens in Canada as part of the experience.
It certainly was great, but it’s hard to judge a director’s skill based solely on a trailer. No, it wasn’t until the utterly amazing TREEVENGE that we knew that this Eisener cat was a man to watch out for. (huh?) Anyone that can make you feel for the plight of a tree and actively cheer on their blood-soaked, child stomping rampage, well, he’s obviously a national treasure. Even if he is Canadian.
Producer Niv Fichman (of The Red Violin, Blindness, and Last Night. Seriously) took interest, a cast and crew were stirred up and most importantly, Rutger Hauer was signed as the titular hobo. And we’ve received this beautiful and disgusting mess of a film, a blood-splattered good time that certainly will leave midnight crowds sighing in orgasmic glee and giggling at all the gore and fucked-up humor.
Hobo With A Shotgun tells the simple story of an unnamed hobo (Hauer) who jumps off a cargo train and ends up in a city where the crime is running more rampant than anywhere else in the world. How bad is it? Right when he gets there he witnesses a daytime execution with dozens of witnesses, carried out by the head of the local drug gang. This evil man doesn’t try to hide who he is, no, he takes this moment to prove a point of how he’ll kill everyone in town if he has to.
The Hobo is just passing through though and doesn’t want to get involved, but he soon stops at a pawn shop and sees his dream purchase- a used lawnmower. This lawnmower is everything the man desires, all of his hopes and dreams. He constantly thinks about ways to be able to afford buying such a beautiful and useful machine and tries to do odd jobs around town to get some cash, eventually making an ass out of himself for a Bum Fights-type director that’s always hanging around town.
But soon the violence in the neighborhood starts to affect even our homeless hero, especially when he sees a hooker with a heart of gold (Molly Dunsworth) being terrorized by the drug boss and his two thug sons. He forgets about his lawnmower and picks up a shotgun for the same price, and starts delivering justice to all the evildoers in town- as the trailer goes- one shell at a time.
Without Rutger Hauer, this film would have been a curiosity. He elevates every single aspect of the film. It’s not a knock on the other actors, but they’re all new at their careers. Hauer knows exactly how to chew the scenery and he spits out one-liners better than anyone. There are dozens of memorable lines here, all of them filled with cheese.
Treevenge showed just how fucked up Jason Eisener’s sense of humor is and here the amount of blood and violence on display in Hobo is only further proof of that. Nothing’s taboo for the man and you have to love him for that, especially during one glorious moment involving a school bus and a flamethrower.
Grey areas? Hobo With a Shotgun knows of no such places. This world is cartoon good and evil, right and wrong. The bad guys are so over the top bad that you don’t mind when they get brutally murdered, and in fact will cheer it on. The gore is low budget stuff but there’s plenty of visceral viscera on display, and more than a few cringe-worthy moments. (A older gentleman that was sitting next to me at the screening attempted to cover his eyes with his knees during a scene involving a hacksaw. He stuck it out till the end, though!)
While the bad guys here are the sort of actors that don’t really seem very tough, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention two of the most badass creations in film, a duo known only as The Plague. The gang leader eventually calls upon them to kill the Hobo after failing multiple times, and as everyone knows that they’re the men to go to if you need someone dead. They’re not men at all actually but demons for hire, clad from head to toe in metal plating and riding around on motorcycles. One of them has some sort of harpoon gun that trails nooses that he uses to hang anyone that gets in his way. The Plague have been around for quite a while too, as their trophy room attests to- keep an eye out for all the famous historical figures in the background that they’ve snuffed out.
(There has been talks of a spinoff movie of The Plague, and I can tell you that this NEEDS to happen, people. Needs to.)
But oh, Hobo. Is it a perfect film? Hell no. This is an acquired taste, folks, like bum wine. Most people simply won’t get it- instead choosing to focus on the bad acting, goofy dialogue, paper-thin plot. You know, stuff that doesn’t matter in a film like this. But as soon as a man gets his head smashed to pieces by bumper cars those of you with incredibly dark senses of humor will be in love. A tremendously fun first feature by Eisener.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars
Hobo With A Shotgun hits VOD today via Magnet Releasing. Grab your friends and enough beer (hint- there’s never enough) and enjoy. If you’d rather see it in theaters, here’s a list of dates.