I’ve said it before and as much as I hate making exceptions, I really feel as though I must. Honestly, you can’t throw the baby out with the bath water but where do you draw the line? There’s nothing in modern exploitation that twists me out of shape more than what I consider a wave of forced grindhouse. It never fails to come off as false and as much fun as it is to infuse your feature with sex, drugs and rock and roll, it looks shoddy and stupid when you run down your checklist of must-have qualities. I was pushed over the edge a while back when I reviewed the big-hype sleazefest, Bitch Slap (Review), and implied that it was one of the worst movies I’d ever seen. I have no patience for it and if you went to film school with the intention of coming out and jamming on scuzzy exploitation riffs in your future feature films, kindly fuck off a cliff.
It’s simply unfair of me, however, to lump all of these guys together and label them grifters. Everyone has good intentions but there’s a saying about that. I wish they wouldn’t but they do and people pay for it. So I have to sift through them all and try not to be a jaded dick about every grindy flick that finds its way to my mail box and goes for that wonky washed out scumbag aesthetic. Sometimes they surprise me. Sometimes I am impressed and sometimes I have no choice but to come here and tell you that someone managed to pull off this high-wire act that manages to balance bargain sin-bin storytelling while pulling off the aesthetic because most of the time, these filmmaker assholes with their popped collars and Rayban Wayfarers fail miserably, making sure to add film damage and feature presentation bumper with Funky Fanfare playing over it.
A nameless hobo rides the rails into the suckiest, most awful burgh of depravity you’ve ever seen. It’s a city where crime runs wild and free in the streets and good, honest people cower in their homes. He finds the place at the mercy of a crime boss and his sadistic sons, one more capable than the other. Things go bad for the Hobo one night, however, when he stymies one son’s rape of a prostitute. Things get worse with each passing crime until a robbery in a pawn shop finds a pump-action shotgun in the Hobo’s hands which he uses to make the robbers pay. After this, he goes from crime scene to crime scene, pumping shell after shell into evil, thus empowering the community. But when the criminal power brokers of this fair city find their grasp on the city weakening, they turn the tables on the Hobo and appeal to basic human frailty by putting a bounty on the homeless in order to have the public do their dirty business for them while rooting out the Hobo. Failing that they call in The Plague, a pair of mercenary killing machines that are either demons or robots. It’s hard to tell, really.
You may or may not remember but the Tarantino/Rodriguez tag team feature, Grindhouse, was marketed with a Youtube contest to turn out faux trailers in the spirit of 42nd Street and the winning trailer was a Canadian entry called Hobo With A Shotgun directed by Jason Eisener. Eisener returned to the director’s chair to expand on it and the results couldn’t have been better. The original trailer was loaded with one-liner goodness and pretty much all of it winds up in the feature. What’s more, Hobo With A Shotgun is aided by its loving production design lifted from the films released by Troma, scum like Street Trash and the absolutely gonzo horror of Frank Hennenlotter. Maybe it’s just because they were all produced in New York in the 80’s but each of those examples is a morbid exercise in bad taste shot in some of the worst parts of the city. Gleeful abandon mingles with crippling poverty to craft some of the most unique and genuinely distressing visions of filth the world has ever seen. Yeah. Hobo With A Shotgun has that. All of it. Even though it was shot in Nova Scotia.
Rutger Hauer is one of those actors who always struck me as the sort of guy who was on track to do great things but at some point in the 80’s he accepted the wrong part and found himself picking up paychecks on the sets of corny action movies. Honestly. How do you go from Ladyhawke or Blade Runner and find yourself in Blind Fury and The Blood of Heroes (which I love)? Hauer recovered in recent times turning up in small roles in Confessions of a Dangerous Mind and the recent Batman movies and he brings it all back home in this feature. Being a shotgun toting bum doesn’t require you to do much but it’s a role that he clearly enjoyed playing and his enthusiasm is infectious. An actor that takes a fun script and has the intended fun with it is bound to elevate a picture above its limitations.
You get buckets of splashy, nasty gore and the deep-down satisfaction of seeing those who exploit us all for personal gain get their crotches blasted out by buckshot. You also get The Plague who don’t really make much sense and it’s never clear what the hell is going on with them but they’re extremely cool and I think I know what I’m going to be for Halloween this year.
Hobo With A Shotgun delivers in a big way. It’s the sort of picture that is crammed with laugh out loud funny bits and more than few times you’ll find yourself trying to stop yourself from laughing since what’s happening is so devious and evil that your rational brain shouldn’t find it funny.