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Blu-ray Review: Hobo With A Shotgun

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We had high hopes for this one. After Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino brought us several little bundles of joy like Grindhouse, Inglourious Basterds and Machete, it appeared that the glorious genre of exploitation moviemaking that had once graced cinemas back in the ‘70s and ‘80s was about to revisit theaters once more in an all-new and vastly-improved fashion. Indeed, following the release of Piranha 3D, we thought for sure that a new era was upon us.

In a way, we were right: there is a new era of exploitation filmmaking upon us. Unfortunately, it appears as if it is being helmed entirely by newbies and amateurs that don’t quite seem to know when enough is enough. Following my extreme disappointment over Drive Angry, I felt that it couldn’t get any worse. That all changed once I witnessed Hobo With A Shotgun. Well, sort of. It does have its moments. Only a few, though.

Plot? Well, I think the title should give you some inkling as to what Hobo With A Shotgun is about. Rutger Hauer takes center stage here as a drifter who winds up in a corrupt, lawless town overrun by violence and decadence (and to think it’s not from the politicians!). Soon, he goes all vigilante-like: gunning down the many villains the community has to offer in an attempt to clean up the human waste that has taken over. And that is pretty much it as far as the story goes, kids.

When Grindhouse was released in 2007, a contest was held abroad for would-be filmmakers to come up with their own faux trailers, much in the same vein of those which were present in the Rodriguez/Tarantino double-bill. Canada’s own Jason Eisener came up with Hobo With A Shotgun, which won the contest. As a result, Eisener’s phony preview was tacked on to some showings of Grindhouse during its Canadian theatrical run.

A few years later, Eisener unleashed a bigger-but-still-low-by-modern-filmmaking-standards-budgeted interpretation of his humorous homage to the unapologetic and over-exaggerated onscreen dares present in revenge genre classicks like They Call Her One Eye (complete with a similar title font). The result? Well, apart from giving Rutger Hauer a chance to star in a vehicle once again (he’s the only name in the whole feature, really), the joke of a homeless man mowing down bad guys with a pump-action weapon being extended to the point where it no longer becomes funny anymore, the disproportionate amount of violence and no-holds-barred shock value simply makes it unwatchable.

Mind you, I normally enjoy gory exploitation movies. They Call Her One Eye? Own it. Cannibal Holocaust? Yup, it’s on my wall of wonders, too — as are I Drink Your Blood, Dead-Alive and The Driller Killer. So, what is it about Hobo With A Shotgun that bothers me? Is it the excessive and impenitent sadism the movie clings to? Rutger Hauer’s monotone grumbling? The fact that two characters set a bus-full of children on fire with a flamethrower? The intentionally-awful dialogue and acting?

Now here’s where I’m torn. These are the very elements that make gory horror/black comedy movies praiseworthy; shock and schlock. When they’re handled with the utmost of devotion, they can create a masterpiece. In the wrong (or at least inexperienced) hands, however, they can form a great big huge mess. Overall, though, I think my biggest problem with Hobo With A Shotgun (other than the fact that it pretty much sucks) is that is attempts to fill in its own many voids by invoking the spirit of ‘90s shot-on-video horror films. Imagine the delightfully wild imagination of ‘70s cinema executed (both figuratively and literally) by the hands of people like Tim Ritter and Ronnie Cramer.

And there you have it: Hobo With A Shotgun — the absolute best of ‘70s grindhouse exploitation mixed with the unconditional worst of ‘90s shot-on-video sleaze. It simply tries too hard to be so extreme. Ultimately, it succeeds, but the way its alienates its audience in the process is a huge negative.

Unless the audience doesn’t give a crap, of course — in which case they can have it. But hey, at least the soundtrack was good, and featured both Andi Sex Gang and Lisa Lougheed (among others, including some very ‘80s-sounding synth music). I guess there’s a plus side to everything, right? And it’s a short film, too — though, by the time you make it through the whole thing (providing you do make it through the whole thing), you’ll be wanting to drink some Drano to clear out the awful taste it leaves in your mouth.

Magnet Releasing brings us this epically-awful homage to classic exploitation films to Blu-ray in a clear 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC transfer that presents the movie with a deliberately- oversaturated color palette that makes the movie look like a mentally-disturbed kid’s banned school crayon drawing. Detail is sharp, however, as is the contrast; a lot of grain pops up throughout, but it could be intentional for all I know. Or care. The accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack does a fine job with what it sets out to do: bombard. As such, it’s more than sufficient. Optional English (SDH) and Spanish subtitles are included.

Special features here consist of two audio commentaries (one with director Eisener and Rutger Hauer, another with Eisener and select crew), the documentary “More Blood, More Heart: The Making of Hobo With A Shotgun,” several deleted scenes and an alternate ending, trailers (including the original contest winner that resulted in this mess being made to being with), and several other bits and pieces that anyone uninterested in the film will be just as dispassionate about (video blogs, test footage, interviews, etc.) A “Shotgun Mode” is also available, wherein viewers can go behind-the-scenes whilst watching the movie every time a target appears on-screen. The same behind-the-scenes segments can be viewed separately.

In short, if you liked Drive Angry or the early works of Takeshi Miike and Troma Films, you’ll probably love Hobo With A Shotgun. It was a fairly-novel idea that was poorly executed…although I imagine it could’ve been worse (they could have cast Nick Nolte in the lead or something really depraved like that!). I’ll stick with authentic exploitation movies like Street Law, Pieces, Doctor Gore and Headless Eyes — ‘cuz I’m refined like that, you know.

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About Luigi Bastardo

Luigi Bastardo is the disgruntled alter-ego of a thirtysomething lad from Northern California who has watched so many weird movies since the tender age of 3 that a conventional life is out of the question. He currently lives in Chico, CA with four cats named Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Margaret. Seriously.
  • http://thenewscifi.com A.A. Roi

    As An interesting note, Hauer has previous worked with Brian Downey (who played the over the top villian Drake) in the 1997 LEXX movie ‘Eating Pattern’ (though their roles are somewhat reversed)