Hobo With A Shotgun

Hobo With A Shotgun

****

Reviewed by: David Graham

Young Canadian upstart Jason Eisner's feature debut is another dubiously expanded trailer a la Machete, harking back to the VHS punk-apocalypse movies of the Eighties. It's an uproarious starburst of cartoon gore and debauched laughs that also manages to be curiously touching, largely thanks to the legendary Rutger Hauer managing to kick ass and skirt sentiment equally skilfully.

Finally trodden down too low, a grizzled nameless wino who despairs at society's ills takes to cleaning up the streets 'one shell at a time'. Quickly becoming a media cause celebre and even a superhero to some, he finds himself a target for everyone from corrupt cops to high-rolling gangsters. Redemption may lie in his paternal relationship with a young prostitute, but he may first have to rally the city's alienated civilians to revolt against the ruling class of dealers and thugs.

Like Michael Douglas in Falling Down, our hobo hero's a fabulously empathetic creation, embodying all of our frustrations and delivering the sort of cathartic chaos that the Eighties-staple one-liner was made for. Hauer is fantastic, veering between shambolic caricature and righteous warrior as the street gangs light his fuse and then turn the people he crusaded for into vigilante mobs intent on his destruction themselves. At one point he is acting through a hole the size of a letter-box, and still manages to be deliriously entertaining.

His co-stars can't quite bring the same knowing grace to their roles, but they still go for broke; it's a surprise there's any scenery left with the way these guys are chewing on it. The film is filled with nice touches, from the local press's gloriously brazen headlines to dialogue that references Youtube faves like Street Trash and Silent Night Deadly Night ('Garbage day for street trash!'). Molly Dunsworth is hugely engaging as Hauer's female sidekick, being both feisty and heart-warming in the concern she shows for the old man, whose affection in return could have been creepy but is genuinely sweet due to how sincere Hauer plays it.

Eisner floods the screen with the sort of over-saturated colours and garish lighting he obviously loved as a child, rendering his hometown of Nova Scotia as a scrappy cyberpunk comic-book creation. Graffiti is everywhere, urban squalor fills the frame, and lots of little details show the love and care that obviously went into the production. His camerawork and editing are authentically gonzo, but the overdriven style can be a little wearisome at times. The sheer mess of noise can also detract from the action; there are times when it's impossible to hear some of the characters with all the guns blasting and music blaring in the background. The film is also a little overlong, with a few too many dry stretches that get by on the charm of its stars rather than the quality of the script.

Overall though, the film has charm in spades, and is loaded with style and invention. Hobo With A Shotgun knows exactly what it is and flaunts its wares like a cracked up dime-store hooker; it's an outrageously audacious ode to the no-budget garbage Eisner and many of us grew up on, guaranteed to raise the roof wherever it plays to a late-night crowd. It's the sort of movie that Rob Zombie should have made by now and will no doubt wish he had. It's cheap and nasty, childish and boorish, but you wouldn't want it any other way.

Reviewed on: 15 Jul 2011
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A hobo hops from a train with dreams of a fresh life in a new city, but instead finds himself trapped in an urban hell.
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If you like this, try:

The Hitcher
Machete