What hath Quentin Tarantino wrought? Thanks to him, John Travolta has assaulted movie-goers with a never-ending string of stinkers, from Battlefield Earth to Wild Hogs to Old Dogs. Thanks to him, exploitation films, the red-headed stepchildren of every major movie studio, have attained a certain respectability that you'd be hard-pressed to find in past decades. And now, thanks to him, we have this: Hobo With a Shotgun.
If it weren't for Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez's Grindhouse, a pseudo-double feature meant to replicate the experience of having the kind of grimy movie-going adventures of yore, Hobo With a Shotgun would never have been made. As a winner of an international fake-trailer contest to promote the release of Grindhouse, Jason Eisener's sleazy, depraved entry emboldened him to make a full-length feature. The film, like most movies of the grindhouse era, plays out the same way as the fake trailer it's based on: it's reprehensible, vile, and obnoxious
In Hobo With a Shotgun, the plot is no-nonsense: Rutger Hauer is the new hobo in Hope Town (a.k.a. Scum Town). Shortly after witnessing a horrific crime in which a man is decapitated by two hoods, the hobo launches a one-man war against lawbreakers and evildoers. What follows is a series of scenes that are so sick and depraved that they would make Larry Flynt puke. I won't spoil them all, but I will tell you this: arms are broken, coke is snorted, blood goes flying, and entrails are used by our hero to camouflage his body. And most disturbing of all, the hobo delivers an uplifting monologue about crack and hoes to a hospital nursery of infants. That bit is creepier than anything else in this creepy flick.
Hobo With a Shotgun's attempted to visually assault our senses is only matched by its repellent dialogue, featuring such winners as "Jerk on this, you child-molesting shitlicker!" and "I've got to wash this guy's ass off of my face." Shakespeare it ain't.
However, what's most interesting about this film is that, unlike typical exploitation flicks, Hobo With a Shotgun's rotten core is covered by a clear display of skill by Eisener. The beautiful Technicolor lighting, cinema verite camera movements, and set design deftly create a nightmarish cartoon world for its moral heroes and abhorrent villains to inhabit.
While the rest of the cast attacks their scenes with skill, Rutger Hauer anchors the whole mess. Hauer was once known as an intimidating figure thanks to his roles in films like Blade Runner and The Hitcher. He's taken on kinder roles in the past, but Hauer's strength lies in his cold stare and unnerving calm. Here, his role as the grizzled title character gives us a wearied and exhausted man lacking direction and purpose.
Hobo With a Shotgun is a hideous film with a gross over-reliance on obnoxious expletives, reprehensible characters, and vile bloodbaths. I loved every grody second of it.
Hobo With a Shotgun is currently available through Magnolia Pictures On Demand. It will be released to theaters starting May 6.