This gory, gleefully over-the-top revenge fantasy stars Rutger Hauer as the Hobo, a bum who rolls into town hoping to start over, only to find his adopted city saturated in violence and ruled by a vicious crime lord known as the Drake (Brian Downey). The Hobo’s answer? Pick up his handy pump-action scattergun and start laying waste to crooks, corrupt cops and every other lowlife who crosses his path.
Rating: 5 out of 10
Warning: This review contains minor spoilers.
I literally spent half the day trying to figure out how to rate this movie. Do I rate it a 7 and praise its audacity to offend and repulse its audience or do I go the other way and rate it a 3 for its lousy production value and over the top antagonists? I decided to take the easy way out and go right down the middle.
There’s a lot to like and lot to dislike about “Hobo with a Shotgun.” I’ll start with the praise by saying that the movie delivers exactly what the title implies. It’s a hearkening back (similar to the Tarantino and Rodriguez’s recent efforts) to the 1970’s grindhouse cinema that was known more for shock than substance. Rutger Hauer is perfectly cast as the title character and adds an element of humanity to a film containing extremely little of it. It has been interesting to see these Grindhouse resurgences starring extremely talented actors. It definitely goes against traditional films of this type. Only a few of them contained even a shred of acting chops. Nowadays, we have Rutger Hauer, Kurt Russell, Robert Deniro, and others starring in them.
But, I digress. The other elements that worked are the over the top action scenes — one containing two assassins sent to a hospital dressed like a cross between an S&M dominatrix and Darth Vader is particularly good. Another is a montage of scenes where the hobo gets revenge with… well, you guessed it… his shotgun. Blood flies, limbs are severed, decapitations occur, and the film is off to a terrific and bloody start. Then, something terrible happens. The three main antagonists, all played horribly over the top, decide to “shock the people.” Two of them enter a school bus with a flame thrower and taunt a bus full of 6-9 year old kids. It ends with the flame thrower mowing them all down and a young girl half on fire pounding on the bus window and screaming. All of a sudden, I wasn’t having fun anymore. There are certain lines you don’t cross while trying to make a fun and bloody romp and the #1 amongst them is leave the kids out of it. It’s impossible for almost anyone to laugh and have a good time during a grindhouse flick when they’re watching young children screaming while they’re being burned to death. It’s clear that director Jason Eisener was trying to cross every line he could find. I’ll never knock anyone for trying to go places others won’t go but it ruined a film I was starting to like. I think “Hobo with a Shotgun” is going to be a cult film for a long time, but it won’t get a repeated viewing by me.