If there is one film this year that I have no real right to complain about being let-down by, then Jesse Eisener’s throw-back to exploitation cinema Hobo With A Shotgun must surely be it. Evolved from the fake trailers that won a competition to play in front of the Robert Rodriguez/Quentin Tarantino 2007 film Grindhouse, it is a move that — in the simplest sense of the phrase — delivers exactly what it promises. There is a hobo. He has a shotgun. And my god, does he use it. In spite of this, Hobo with a Shotgun is not a film I enjoyed nearly as much as I anticipated or hoped that I would. It’s over-the-top and violent, but without enough of the silly thrills or cheesy fun that make actual exploitation films so damn entertaining.
Rutger Hauer (The Rite), apparently unaware of the kind of movie that he’s in, gives a surprisingly strong and weighty dramatic performance as the titular hobo who rides into Hope Town on the rails. A breeding ground for corruption and misery like you wouldn’t believe, the city is ruled by the dictatorial and certifiably insane “The Drake”, who at the outset of the film decapitates his own brother just to prove a point. Even more dangerous are his two sadistic sons, walking 80s clichés Slick and Ivan, who rape, torture and murder people for their own sick amusement. After coming to the rescue of a hooker-with-a-heart of gold named Abby inadvertently puts him in The Drake’s firing line, the hobo decides to clean up the streets of Hope Town once and for all, the only way he knows how.
Packed with gratuitous violence, insane drug-use and truly unprintable dialogue, Hobo With A Shotgun would probably have been genuinely more entertaining as a fifteen-minute plot-less montage of all its best bits strung together. The money shots in this film – and there are a lot of them – are brilliantly over-the-top, holding nothing sacred and nothing back. But everything else is just kind of a bore. I understand that much of the relationship between the hobo and Abby is meant to be funny in an absurd, so-bad-it’s-good kind of way, and normally I love that kind of garbage. But here it just doesn’t work.
At a certain point, even the violence becomes unexciting. Watching blood splatter over the camera lens again and again, however outrageously funny it might have been the first time, eventually becomes repetitive, and after Slick and Ivan flamethrower a whole busload of schoolchildren — brilliant, by the way — there aren’t many places the film can escalate to from there. Fun to a point, but by about the hour mark I was more than ready to check out.
Tom Clift is a web-based film journalist from Melbourne, Australia. Visit his website here: http://reviewsbytom.blogspot.com.
You can read all of Tom Clift’s coverage of MIFF 2011 here.