While it may be a low-budget Canadian import, future audiences won’t need much of an introduction to the impressionable title as it was birthed from Tarantinoâ€™s and Rodriguezâ€™s Grindhouse. Treevenge (short film) helmer Jason Eisener’s feature debut is all spilled guts and glory – and Hobo with a Shotgun lays claim to it being among the best of the grindhouse sub-genre as it best exemplifies what occurs when the fanboy-turned-filmmaker is given the budget and freedom to do what they want to do.
This audience-pleaser’s opening scene starts things off with a bang. Our Hobo hero (Rutger Hauer) arrives on the train into Fuck Town and is immediately introduced to Main bad guy The Drake (Brian Downey), along with his two sons Slick (Gregory Smith) and Ivan (Nick Bateman doing Ben Silverman?). They proceed to behead The Drakeâ€™s brother in the middle of the street, in broad daylight, with many witnesses whom they put on a show for. Corruption is the law in Fuck Town apparently.
What follows is (and I might be blaspheming here) an allegorical tale about Saddam Husseinâ€™s reign over a crumbling Iraq. The Drake is Saddam, Slick and Ivan are Uday and Qusay. Hobo is who Eisener wanted America to be. Certainly the film is not preachy, and I cannot imagine most viewers noticing this, as perhaps itâ€™s not even intended, but it certainly applies. They rule over the city, raping and murdering for fun. Their â€œarcadeâ€ features a few videogames, but itâ€™s mainly a chamber of horrors where they find elaborate ways to murder folks like bashing their heads in with bumper cars. Also, in Fuck Town/Hobo with a Shotgun, body parts explode with blood, they do not just bleed.
Littered with memorable catch phrases even beyond whatâ€™s in the trailer, and some of which are even read like the cast actually prepared. Indeed, the performances are not winning any awards. Hauer is quite the presence, and nails this role, but quieter dialogue scenes reveal how he must have showed up on set having read the script once. Molly Dunsworth plays Abby, the prostitute with a heart of gold whom Hobo wants to save, even though she ends up saving him. Standouts really are the bad guys. Downey as The Drake excels, as do the two sons played by Smith and Bateman. Apart from the most notable action scenes, their scenes are really the most fun.
The opening credits read â€œColor by Technicolorâ€ and the entire film is shot digitally, however color timed to resemble those 1970s grindhouse flicks with the highly saturated reds and yellows. Cinematographer Karim Hussain shoots the film a notch better than other horror films that look like music videos. Things really click here – making for a impressive looking movie. Look for Hobo with a Shotgun to make a huge splash upon release, and more importantly, in comparison to Machete, will be cited for years to come. Eisener’s strong-suit are these kinds of films, as he clearly loves them. Working with Hauer, already an icon of this genre, must have been a dream come true and he made the most of it.
Reviewed at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival. Park City at Midnight Section.
86 Mins. January, 22nd, 2011