Review: Hobo with a Shotgun

Posted: March 24, 2011 in Film Reviews
Tags: , , , , , ,

Rutger Hauer in Hobo with a ShotgunThe grindhouse picture has experienced somewhat of a reawakening in recent years. There are DVDs featuring the genre’s most absurd offerings or little known gems; late night screenings of movies that would disintegrate in the cleansing light of day; and a spattering of the deranged that has made it into mainstream cinema. The latest perpetrators are a team of Canadians who turned a friendly insult into an on-screen bloodbath.

A train pulls into the station – it’s the end of the line. A Hobo (Rutger Hauer) jumps from a freight car, hoping for a fresh start in a new city. Instead, he finds himself trapped in an urban hell. This is a world where criminals rule the streets and Drake (Brian Downey), the city’s crime boss, reigns supreme alongside his sadistic murderous sons, Slick (Gregory Smith) & Ivan (Nick Bateman). Amidst the chaos, the Hobo comes across a pawn shop window displaying a second-hand lawn mower. He dreams of making the city a beautiful place and starting a new life for himself. But as the brutality continues to rage around him, he notices a shotgun hanging above the lawn mower. Quickly, he realizes the only way to make a difference in this town is with that gun in his hand and two shells in its chamber – “delivering justice one shell at a time.”

It’s gritty, over-exposed and grotesque. The blood is unnaturally bright and flows generously from horrifically inflicted wounds courtesy of barbed wire, bats ornamented with razors, lawn mower blades and bumper cars. The dialogue is plain and often cheesy or ridiculous, such as the repurposing of a Discovery channel special on bears or Drake’s reprimanding of his sons that includes telling one of them to put his head on the desk.

The Hobo’s arrival in “Scumtown” is routine enough, but as he ventures through the streets he passes one illicit, violent offence after another. Like Michael Douglas’ character in Falling Down, the Hobo can finally take no more and decides to try and “solve the world’s problems with a shotgun.” He acts as judge, jury and executioner for a range of criminals, including pimps, pedophiles and petty thieves. He also gruesomely castrates a rapist in disgusting visual detail.

Hauer is a genre expert and the perfect selection for this film. Besides sharing director Jason Eisener’s abhorrence for guns, Hauer knows how to breathe life into bizarre characters. His improvised line is one of the most memorable: “I hate guns.” Downey’s Drake sometimes channels Blue Velvet’s Frank Booth, but he makes the insane patriarch his own.

In addition to recanting the story of the anonymous Dartmouth, Nova Scotia cop that allowed the small crew to continue shooting on a city street, in a roofless car without a permit or safety certification, Eisener tells the origin story of Hobo with a Shotgun. It’s quite funny in its mundane roots, but it was as simple as mocking an unkempt friend with a gun obsession that got the wheels turning. From there, a contest by Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez seeking trailers for their Grindhouse double bill eventually led to a call from Alliance Films offering to turn the spot into a feature. It’s a bit of a Canadian fairy tale with a gory ending for the Treevenge filmmakers.

The kills are original and memorable, owing some of its excessiveness to the number of drafts the script underwent. Luckily, Bateman survived having his hair set afire by a flame-thrower. But it’s worth the new meaning given to the song “Disco Inferno.”

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