I really didn't think I'd be a big fan of Hobo With a Shotgun. Yeah, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking 'Hey, uh, The Mike....you know that Hobo With a Shotgun is kinda like a movie totally made for people like you, y'know?" And you'd be right. But the hype machine on this one made it seem like the Titanic. Too much hype, too much talk of goodness, too much "Wow, you've never seen anything like it!"...and I simply couldn't believe there wasn't gonna be an iceberg that would sink it before it reached my heart. It was too good to be true.
Now lock up your pawn shop, fill your shopping cart, look out for bears, and lend me your ears...because I'm her to tell you that I, like a fool, was completely wrong. Hobo With a Shotgun hits the screen exactly as advertised, and the film you'll be seeing just might blow your mind.
If you don't know the tale behind this Hobo, allow me a minute to recap. Way back in the dark ages of 2007, Robert Rodriguez was on the promotional trail for Grindhouse and hosted a competition in which directors could enter their own fake trailers for exploitation flicks. The winner of said competition would get a chance to play as part of Grindhouse - even if it was only in some Canadian theaters. The winner of that contest was a trailer by a few Canadian filmmakers called - you guessed it - Hobo With a Shotgun. The popularity of the trailer grew, Machete happened, and suddenly director Jason Eisener was making a full film out of his trailer - and had cast Rutger Hauer in the lead. It's the stuff that dreams are made of. Demented and twisted dreams - but dreams nonetheless.
The story of the actual film is pretty simple. A nameless Hobo (Hauer) rolls into a decrepit town that's ruled by a criminal and his spoiled sons, helps a hooker with a heart of gold, finds out the law isn't going to stop them, and takes matters into his own hands. (And by matters, I mean a shotgun.) The film does allow the Hobo a few slow moments to throw out a dramatic anecdote or two - moments that Hauer, reaching back to the skills of his Blade Runner and The Hitcher days, dominates with ease - but the blood splatter to minutes on screen ratio is kind of astronomical.
Among other things, Hobo With a Shotgun's got decapitation, shotguns to the crotch, stabbings with skates, blowtorchings, neck sawing, the use of a toaster as a weapon, and snap bracelets. Then again, the snap bracelets don't really play into the violence of the film, but there's a moment when our hooker with a heart of gold (played by Molly Dunsworth) snaps one onto each of her wrists - and instantly makes me want to fall in love with her. I mean, who doesn't miss snap bracelets? Those things were one of the Top 5 things to come out of the '80s, easily.
Speaking of the '80s, Hobo With a Shotgun certainly mimics the great decade well. Particularly tubular is the musical score, which is credited to three composers - Adam Burke, Darius Holbert, and Russ Howard III. I'm not sure why it took three dudes to come up with this musical score - but if that's what it takes to make the film sound so good, I'm all for every film having three composers. The music reminds of films like Carpenter's Escape from New York, and really kept me interested during the action sequences. The film also offers a lot of visual treats, with Eisener and crew using sharp colors to light most scenes, giving the film a retro look as the gold, blue, and even pink tints of the film add to the unique feel of the proceedings. And I'd be ashamed if I didn't mention that there's also some decent humor mixed in to the film. A newspaper headline that read "HOBO STOPS BEGGING, DEMANDS CHANGE" had me laughing loudly and heartily for several minutes.
You're probably not going to watch Hobo With a Shotgun for the music or color palette or the snap bracelets or the surprising supporting turn by Dunsworth, but these were the touches that really sold the film to me. Anyone can make violence happen, and most can make violence inventive. We've all seen that, and I didn't care to just see it again. Thus, I'm more than ecstatic that Eisener, Hauer, and the rest of the cast and crew went out of their way to bring more to the table, because each scene in the film made me increasingly certain that the people behind this film cared about what they were doing and knew what it took to do it well. The resulting film is more than a pleasant surprise - it's one of the most fantastic genre films I've seen in years.