In its original incarnation as a fake trailer that played alongside 2007’s box office flop “Grindhouse,” “Hobo With A Shotgun” seemed like the quintessential grind-house film — great as a trailer, not so great as an actual movie. Last year’s “Machete,” also based on a trailer from “Grindhouse,” did its best to disprove this theory, delivering wildly entertaining action but fumbling with its narrative. “Hobo With A Shotgun” bucks the trend, delivering a gleefully violent and entertaining film that more than lives up to the promise of its trailer.
The titular hobo (wonderfully played by Rutger Hauer) arrives in the sociopathic hellhole known only as “Fuck Town” in the film’s opening scenes. As the hobo observes the rampant crime, corruption and bloodshed that dominates the city, he eventually does the only thing he can — buys a shotgun from a pawn shop and begins dealing out his own brand of vigilante justice.
“Hobo With A Shotgun” is not for the faint of heart. Director Jason Eisener has made a name for himself aggressively testing the boundaries of good taste, and “Hobo With A Shotgun” is no different. Any kind of horrific crime or death you could think of is here, from a pedophilic Santa Claus to a crime family that decapitates people in the street for fun — Hauer’s hobo blasts them all away with gleeful abandon.
In fact, the entire film rests on Hauer’s shoulders, and his performance is what makes the film more than an empty amusement park ride. Hauer brings legitimate dramatic weight to what could have been a generic B-movie performance, letting his anger and indignation build in the film’s opening scenes before the hobo is finally able to spill comically over-the-top amounts of blood. Hauer’s disgusted, world-weary portrayal gives a movie where everyone is equally bloodthirsty as the hero and keeps the audience firmly on the hobo’s side even as he deals out violent retribution.
However, the B-movie cheese is more than covered by former teenybopper Gregory Smith’s ridiculously sleazy performance. Smith, who vanished into obscurity after his long-running TV series “Everwood” was cancelled in 2006, tears into the role with a ferocious determination, committing acts of unspeakable violence that couldn’t be further from the collection of gentle characters he made a name for himself playing in the early 2000s.
Eisener, a Canadian director making his feature debut with “Hobo,” also does an outstanding job, staging the over-the-top violence with an undeniable flair for splattering blood and hilarious one-liners. His “Fuck Town” is just a few degrees removed from reality, drenched in several shades of foreboding neon and feeling like the kind of town John Carpenter might have created in the 1980s.
If someone described some of the scenes in “Hobo With A Shotgun” to an unsuspecting moviegoer, their reactions might range from disgust to outright anger. However, thanks to Eisener’s inescapable sense of humor and Hauer’s grounded, dry performance, the offensive in “Hobo With A Shotgun” becomes harmlessly over-the-top, so excessively violent, gory and anarchistic that all you can do is laugh and have a great time.
“Hobo With A Shotgun” opens tonight at 12:30 a.m. at the Alamo Ritz and is available on video on demand across the country.
Hobo With A Shotgun
For those who like: Grindhouse, Black Dynamite
Runtime: 86 minutes