SXSW FILM FESTIVAL
SXSW Review: 'Hobo With a Shotgun' is a Gore-Covered Love Letter
by Jeremy Kirk
March 21, 2011
There's a subset of fans who will definitely have the time of their life watching Jason Eisener's Hobo With a Shotgun. They're the people who watched the violent films of the ‘80s, whose parents allowed them to stay up late and watch the likes of Dolph Lundgren and Rutger Hauer blasting enemies with vicious, juicy delight. Eisener's film, based on his trailer originally a part of Tarantino/Rodriguez's Grindhouse project, bottles that sensibility, shakes it up, and splatters it all over the screen. What's more, he's brought Hauer himself along for the gory ride, and the resulting cinematic feat is a bloody good time. Quite literally so.
Rutger Hauer plays the titular Hobo, no name given, who rides into the appropriately named Hope Town on a freight car. The town is overrun by prostitutes, drug dealers, and generally amoral human beings and run by the megalomaniacal The Drake, played by Brian Downey. The Hobo is a side-watcher only wanting to start an innocent lawn mowing business, but he soon finds himself embroiled in the chaos when he steps in to help a local prostitute named Abby, played by Molly Dunsworth. The also titular shotgun is acquired and the soupy goodness can commence.
Eisener makes no bones about where his passions lie. The opening credits of the film show the Hobo riding in on the train as the theme song from Cannibal Holocaust plays. The '70s and '80s Grindhouse appeal is on full display in the characters, settings, and relationships, but it's made all the more obvious once the blood begins flowing and the body parts begin flying about. Fans of these types of movies will be fully aware where the references come from, and recognizing specific examples will make the experience all the more enjoyable.
But on top of that, where Hobo With a Shotgun really shines where films like [enter random Troma title here] fail miserably is in the heart of the story. Much of it comes from Hauer's sincerity, but the Hobo character is filled with empathy and solace. You fully understand why he feels the need to stand up for these people, why he steps in to clean the streets of the vile creatures that have overrun the town for far too long.
His mental stability may be called into question. He continually believes Abby to be a school teacher, something stemmed from the innocence he sense in her, as well. There's a conversation piece about bears that will have some chuckling in discomfort and others taking in the sadness involved. A hero's moment later in the film sees the Hobo reflecting on his life through the faces of children in a hospital. Again, comedic to some, heroic and honest to others.
Also again, much of this comes from Hauer's sincerity in the role. A character actor for so many years, he takes the role in and accepts it for precisely what it is. There's never a winking of the eye, never a breaking of the fourth wall where he turns to the camera snidely at the ridiculous lines he is delivering. We believe Hauer's performance, and it gives the Hobo a grounding little seen throughout the rest of the picture.
There really is very little that can be said in Hobo's defense to someone who just doesn't get it, and that's not a slight on viewers who will be turned away by the sex, gore, and rock n' roll on display within the film's hedonistic walls. For anyone who believes Hobo With a Shotgun is their type of film, people who froth at the mouth simply for a movie called Hobo With a Shotgun, there is very little out there that can compete stylistically or in terms of pushing that guts-filled envelope. Eisener has made an epic love letter to the films those horror/action film-loving children of the '80s watched on auto-repeat. Hobo With a Shotgun is a blast, an easy pun for a film that seems to have been made effortlessly by fans for the fans.
Jeremy's SXSW Rating: 8.5 out of 10