Justice: One Shell at a Time

Courtesy of Rhombus Media

“Hobo With a Shotgun” is, by no means, for everyone. It is violent, vulgar, schizophrenic and a little disturbing. That being said, if you don’t mind gore, guts and a healthy dose of insanity, I cannot imagine a more satisfying, entertaining and memorable film than “Hobo With a Shotgun.”

“Hobo With a Shotgun,” written and directed by rookie Jason Eisener, began life as a contest-winning fake trailer shown with some versions of Quentin Tarantino’s and Robert Rodriguez’s 2007 double-feature, “Grindhouse.” However, due to positive feedback from fans and Canadian film subsidies, “Hobo” was turned into a feature film.

Veteran actor Rutger Hauer (most famous for his amazing portrayal of Roy Batty in “Blade Runner”) stars as the titular Hobo, supported by newcomer Molly Dunsworth as Abby, a prostitute with a heart of gold, and Brian Downey as The Drake, a horrific crime lord.

The plot, admittedly, is simplistic. The nameless hobo rides into town on the rails, hoping to find a new life. He is tired, and longs to buy a lawnmower from a thrift store so that he may start a new life as a gardener. However, after he rescues the beautiful young hooker Molly from the clutches of one of The Drake’s villainous sons, Slick, and beats him unconscious, plans change. He trades in the last of his change for a 12-gauge shotgun, and (as newspaper headlines note) starts dealing out justice one shell at a time.

However, The Drake does not take kindly to this new homeless vigilante, and orders his sons to solve the problem. Without spoiling anything, through a plot involving ice skates, boom-boxes, homemade flamethrowers and a bus full of school children, Slick and his brother Ivan convince the inhabitants of this hell-hole to hunt down and kill all of the city’s vagrants. What follows is a stream of carnage, bloodshed, decapitations, castration by shotgun and about a hundred other amazingly gruesome deaths.

Hauer’s performance helps to ground the film, as he brings a sense of nobility and experience to the role. He is not over the top or silly; in fact, with the exception of an apparent obsession with grizzly bears, Hauer plays the character more or less straight.

Furthermore, Gregory Smith and Nick Bateman portray Slick and Ivan, respectively, as an amusing cross between the jock school bully from an 80s high school flick and a completely bloodthirsty and murderous psychopath. As The Drake, Downey does a great job playing a vaguely reptilian and heartless crime lord who uses fear as his main weapon.

Again, these aren’t nuanced roles, with The Hobo as the stoic avenger, and Slick, Ivan and The Drake as comic book villains with no redeeming qualities (aside from a pretty decent fashion sense). However, this movie does not aspire to be some sort of serious character study, so the simplistic roles are completely acceptable.

The visuals, also, are quite amazing. Shot in Technicolor, the colors are wonderfully saturated and vibrant. Blood (of which there is a copious amount) is a wonderful deep red, skin is almost orange and altogether the film is simply a joy to watch. It’s refreshing to see an exploitation-style movie in which the visual quality hasn’t been artificially damaged, as was the case in “Machete,” “Grindhouse” and many others.

Furthermore, the costuming, especially for Slick and Ivan, is quite excellent. The Letterman jackets, tight jeans, Converse shoes, slicked-back hair and Wayfarers are perfect for the characters, and Hauer certainly looks like someone who hasn’t seen a bed or shower in a long while.

One cannot review this film without discussing one of its crazier and amazing aspects: the duo called The Plague. These armored, demonic bounty hunters don’t appear until the movie’s third act, but still completely steal the show. In particular, the little we see of the lair makes them simply some of most badass characters to have ever appeared in film. These two certainly deserve their own movie, and Eisener has apparently already written a treatment for it.

Quite simply, if you enjoy exploitation flicks, “Hobo With a Shotgun” is perfect. It is insane and bloody, yet also an enjoyable and totally memorable trip. See it with a group. Yell at the screen. Embrace the insanity, and let “Hobo With a Shotgun” blow you away.

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars