An unnamed homeless man (Rutger Hauer) arrives at Hope Town (the name is one of the many blatantly ironic moments) where he witnesses The Drake (Brian Downey) and his two sons Slick (Gregory Smith) and Ivan (Nick Bateman) doing a routine act of horrifically clever sadism. Just like that we are introduced to the majority of the important characters. As Hobo (all that he is ever referred to) explores his new home he discovers that this new town is run by The Drake with fear and violence having control over everyone. When he sees beautiful hooker Abby (Molly Dunsworth) being attacked by Slick he sweeps in for the rescue, but he soon discovers just how lost in corruption this little town is. Though his good deed does not go unnoticed, Abby offers a helping hand and he sees some unique light in her tortured eyes. But Abby's nice gesture doesn't stop Hobo from coming to his ultimate decision that crime must be stopped "one shell at a time."
Criticizing a film like Hobo with a Shotgun, or any exploitation film for that matter, is so simple, yet so pointless. Talking about one exploitation film without comparing it to other ones is a real challenge due to fact that all of them are made up of recycled methods, characters, and frequently even recycled ideas. Every person involved in making this film knew it was stupid, there ultimate goal was to create something so outrageous, so irresistibly fascinating, while also being as cheap and dirty as the town it is set in. Did they succeed? Well you will have to figure that out for yourself; if you can look past its stupidity and shallow view on society with the ability to just have fun with the relentless gore-spraying violence and wonderfully cheesy dialogue then you will have some filthy fun with this film. I was able to do that, even though I felt an extreme desire to take shower as soon as the credits started rolling.
Just like Robert Rodriguez's Machete (2010), this film's idea originated from a trailer that was in the South by Southwest Grindhouse trailer contest (this film went on to win the contest). Usually being filmed on very low budgets, these kind of films rely on quick attention-grabbing images to get people interested which leads to very entertaining trailers with films that never fail at being memorable in some sort of way. Directed by Jason Eisener in pure exploitation style; excessive in every sense of the word. This here is not a film to study scene by scene, you get what you see and most people probably won't like what is shown to them. We can only imagine the circumstances this film's idea was given birth in. Were John Davies and Jason Eisener walking down a dirty street pondering over what would homeless people do if given the opportunity to "clean" up the streets. Who knows? Better yet, who cares? I sure don't...
There are two examples that immediately come to mind when thinking of moments when this film let itself becoming sickeningly distasteful; 1) Less than 10 minutes into the film when Drake and his sadistic sons Slick and Ivan do a viscously clever style of execution on The Drake's brother Logan (Robb Wells). As blood sprays out of where his head used to be a very unattractive woman does some sort of strip tease over top the newly formed geyser of blood. 2) After being knocked out by the Hobo, Slick is challenged by his father to do something that will really scare people. Responding in a way that throws away all classifications of taste or sanity, he decides to set a school bus full of students on fire.
Like many of the classic exploitation films it is doing a homage of, Hobo with a Shotgun is acted far too well for its own good. As the tortured Hobo, Rutger Hauer is a crazy bad-ass with a surprisingly touching heart. Brian Downey is a fantastically cast as the guru of violence, The Duke with Gregory Smith as Slick and Nick Bateman as Ivan creating a family of sadists that can sign me up for their fan club. Beautiful Molly Dunsworth steals many scenes as the pure-hearted hooker Abby.
Gruesome violence that walks on the border of Appalling comes with exploitation territory. Blood geysers, explosive shootouts, and plenty of cheap mutilation that is fun in the way that makes you question your sanity. Going off the coherent plot radar to force ridiculous situations make all of those memorable violent qualities possible. The entire presence of the armor wearing, "demon" duo Rip and Grinder (Nick Bateman again and Peter Simas) who are known as "The Plague" is a perfect example of just how entertaining forced quirkiness can be. They are a mix between 16th century knights and futuristic robots who end up being a very entertaining addition. I gave up trying to find the answer to the question of how I can overlook such shocking flaws in taste, talent, and respectability by enjoying these hardly respectable films. Somehow or another I can, but I can easily understand how so many people can find them nothing less than horrific.
I'm not surprised to see exploitation films making a major comeback in pop-culture, neither was I surprised to see Robert Rodriguez's Machete becoming perhaps the most mainstream one yet -- earning an estimated 44 million in the box office. With the 2007 Grindhouse double-feature consisting of Planet Terror (also directed by Robert Rodriguez) and Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof earning an estimated 50 million at the box office. Hobo with a Shotgun is in nobody terms mainstream -- earning only an estimated 700,000 in the U.S. -- but it proves that there are young filmmakers today with a "talent" for creating exploitation films clearly inspired by the classics of the 60s and 70s with their own modern social commentary.
If you have an open mind Hobo with a Shotgun can be an interesting experience, some unique people may even find its no-holds-barred attack on taste and society entertaining. Jason Eisener does a brilliant job at creating the authentic cheap-looking feel to this film, with Rutger Hauer's leading performance being more deep than this film would ever want to be. Ultimately it is the extreme violence that makes these types of films such common destinations for cult followings. There are multiple times that its distastefulness gets the upper hand, but violence that is some outgoing and knows how to have fun with itself is just so addicting. Daring, remorseless filmmaking that turns into, slightly organized, chaos.