Imagine a world where every movie title described its subject matter perfectly. Interesting, no?
Where instead of “Fast Five” it’d be “Muscular Men Driving Fast Cars For The Fifth Time”; where instead of “Your Highness” it’d be “Medieval Stoner Comedy”. An endearing concept, but one that would wear thin after a while. Used sparingly, though, it’s awesome. Enter “Hobo With A Shotgun”, where the premise is succinctly summarized in the four words of its title. It is, in fact, a hobo wielding a shotgun, on a one-man quest against a web of corrupt cops, psychopathic mobsters and their army of robots. It is, in fact, as ludicrous, bombastic and stupid as it sounds. And it is, in fact, very close to a masterpiece. Call me insane, but this is seriously inspired cinema.
Director Jason Eisener pulls off something very tricky. See, on the exterior, “Hobo with a Shotgun” is out-of-control; a manic, chaotic, bloody romp of a film. But Eisener actually has a tight, taut vision; one that he executes perfectly. He’s making a film not in the style of, but actually of vintage exploitation cinema. He plays everything totally straight, relying on the audience to pick up the tone that he’s trying to convey. Basically, the movie is one great big inside-joke.
Hauer is pretty fantastic as the titular hobo. He plays it entirely straight-forward; making a character that could have easily slipped into caricature but instead gives a somewhat nuanced performance as someone who clearly isn’t entirely in his right mind. Brian Downey steals every scene he’s in, however, as The Drake, who, as the head mobster in the town, is the chief villain of the film. Memorable (and publication-appropriate) lines of his include, “When life gives you razor blades, make a baseball bat full of razor blades!”. He knows just how much ham to bring to each individual line, as do his psychopathic sons cum henchmen, whose almost impossible level of ego and bravado remind me of “Risky Business”-era Tom Cruise, million-dollar-smile and all.
Eisener’s originality shines through in truly bizarre ways here. The structure and concept of the movie are nothing new, but it’s little nuances that truly are (i.e., the staging of the action sequences, the kills, etc.). Nothing is off-limits here….not even a school-bus full of children.
“Hobo With A Shotgun”, though gruesome and repelling; loud and brutal; stupid and silly, is fantastic. It’s a film made with the utmost care and passion, with some of the most original action in a while and a truly great performance from a long-respected veteran actor, Rutger Hauer. It’s definitely fringe cinema. You won’t find this at your local cineplex. [As it stands right now, “Hobo With A Shotgun” can be seen at art-house cinemas and on iTunes] But it’s a film that touched me in a weird way, one that struck emotional chords in me, both brutal and poignant. B+