The world can be divided into two groups. People who would go see a movie titled “Hobo with a Shotgun” and people who wouldn’t. If you are in the former group you’ll likely love the movie. If not, well, perhaps go see “Jane Eyre” instead.
Shot in Halifax by first time feature director Jason Eisener, the movie is the model for truth in advertising. There is a hobo (Rutger Hauer) and a shotgun. It’s what he does with the shotgun that, depending on your point of view, makes the movie either a grindhouse treasure or a gratuitous blood fest with no redeeming value. You see the hobo has just ridden the rails into Scumtown, the most corrupt Canadian city in the east. Ruled by crime kingpin The Drake (Brian Downey) and his sadistic sons (Gregory Smith and Nick Bateman) it is a cesspool of sleaze where the streets run red with Technicolor blood. The level of carnage brings out the hobo’s inner Charles Bronson as he brings some 20-gauge vigilante justice to the town.
“Hobo with a Shotgun” is like what would have happened if Roger Corman made “Death Wish” with a fake blood budget the size of a James Cameron movie. It’s an unapologetic revenge movie that makes movies like “The Toxic Avenger” seem restrained. Any movie with kitschy lines like “I’m gonna sleep in your bloody carcass tonight” is OK by me as long as it delivers in other ways, and “Hobo with a Shotgun” does. Of course, it is first and foremost a squishy ode to the movies that filled drive-ins and grindhouses during the Nixon years but it also has a deliberate sense of humor about itself—a headline describing the Hobo’s rampage reads, “Hobo Stops Begging— Demands Change”—and seems genuinely affectionate about the movies it is paying tribute to.
“Hobo” even has the same kind of pseudo social commentary that Roger Corman used to try and shoehorn into his exploitation movies. For instance, according to Corman “The Big Birdcage” wasn’t just a babes, bars and bondage women-in-prison picture but a highly nuanced ode to women’s lib. I think Eisener probably has his tongue in cheek when his characters take a stance on the issue of homelessness, but nonetheless the addition of some strange social commentary perfectly fits the tone of the genre he’s trying to emulate.
Director Eisener’s highly developed visual style and sense of the absurd fuels the entire movie. It’s clear that most of the budget probably went to Hauer’s salary and the blood supply, but Eisener makes the most of every scene using inventive camera angles and tinting the action with lurid cartoon colors. Blood has never looked this red and b-movies have rarely looked this cool.