“Delivering justice one shell at a time.”
Sometimes you look at a movie title and you really can’t decide what kind of movie it might be. It could cause you to avoid a movie you might have really liked. Scent Of A Woman was like that for me. I avoided it for years because I thought it must be some hyper-romantic film. Of course, it was anything but. Hollywood has a habit of trying to get too clever sometimes, and it leaves us just wondering what the heck are we in store for here. Then there are films that tell you everything you need to know in the title. When you see a title like Hobo With A Shotgun, you know exactly what it is you’re getting.
“When life gives you razor blades, you make a baseball bat covered in razor blades.”
And that’s just what one team of young filmmakers did. The title started as a faux movie trailer. Robert Rodriguez offered up a contest for young filmmakers to do a trailer to a fake grindhouse movie. The young Canadian team of Jason Eisener and Rob Cotterill presented one called Hobo With A Shotgun. It was so well liked by Rodriguez that it was included in video releases of Grindhouse. But the fortune didn’t end there for the young team. They were given the chance to make a feature film out of the property. The result is one of those wonderfully surprising films that will stick with you for a long time to come.
A hobo (Hauer) is riding the rails when he comes to Hope City. What he finds here is anything but hope. The town is awash in violence and corruption. The city is controlled by a maniac who calls himself The Drake (Downey) He’s a slick-dressed used-car-salesman kind of showman who puts his violent retribution out there for all to see. He has two sons who also have free run of the city. Ivan (Bateman) and Slick (Smith) treat everyone and everything like it is their own. At first the hobo tries to keep his head down, but when the boys try to hurt a young hooker named Abby (Dunsworth), he has had enough and steps in to help the girl. He ends up beaten and etched with the word Scum on his chest. Abby takes him in, but the violence eventually gets to him. When he sees a shotgun in a pawn shop where he intended to buy a lawnmower, he takes the gun down to thwart a gang robbery of the store. Finally empowered, this hobo decides to take on the criminal element and take out the trash. It will ultimately lead to a showdown with The Drake.
Now forget everything I just told you about the movie’s plot. None of it matters. All you need to know is what you get in the title. This is all about a hobo with a shotgun and his dream of a better society. The rest is eye candy, and there is plenty of that to go around.
The movie takes on the look and feel of a 1970’s exploitation film. That’s been done a few times already in recent years, but this one is very different. While it’s very tongue-in-cheek, the movie doesn’t set out to spoof or make fun of the genre. You’re not going to see those intentional bad edits or boom mics crashing into the scene. You’re not going to see flubs that have been placed there on purpose. You will see the distinctive style and film grain of that era and genre, but it’s all done in loving tribute rather than mocking jest. The film is a non-stop violent ride through a crime-infested city. There is plenty of blood, and the hobo gets in quite a few licks before the final confrontation. We’re talking guys dressed up like Santa to find and molest little kids. There are blacksploitation pimps and even a metallic assassination squad called The Plague. The film pushes the limits of political correctness at every turn, but nowhere so far as a school bus filled with little kids that Slick torches from the inside. Hey, it’s all in good fun.
Give some credit to veteran actor Rutger Hauer. Here’s a guy who doesn’t have anything left to prove. He obviously took very little money for the part, but he bought into it 100%. He literally becomes the hobo. Dave Brunt is the hobo in the award-winning trailer, and he was pretty good. Hauer took the time to hang with the amateur actor and copy many of his mannerisms. It’s a dedicated performance for little dough and a first-time director. Brian Downey might not have the creds that Hauer has, but he puts in a command performance as the over-the-top Drake. He comes across like a Batman villain with style and ego to match. Molly Dunsworth has very little in the way of credits, but again, we have an actress who rises to the occasion and refuses to be lost in the over-the-top manic film. She has to be shy and innocent and eventually tough and determined. It’s a better-than-average transition. These characters are indeed characters.
Jason Eisener is having a lot of fun. He’s a first-time director, and he’s given enough money to play in the big boys’ sandbox. He was fortunate enough to have little interference from the backers, and most of all, he got Rutger Hauer to play his shotgun-wielding hobo. If that’s not hitting the jackpot, I don’t know what is. He could have been content to spend his time playing with these wonderful shiny toys and been happy for the experience. But he never forgot the audience members who were ultimately going to experience the movie. He decided to share his good fortune and put heart and soul into producing something much more than a source of pride. This is an E-Ticket ride that you’re going to want to take over and over again.
Hobo With A Shotgun is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.40:1. The 1080p image is arrived at with an AVC MPEG-4 codec at an average 25-30 mbps. You have to remember that this is an intentionally stylish film. Any noise and grain is there to make this thing look like a 70’s exploitation film. The world is hyper-real with distinct yet gritty colors. Make no mistake, this is a fine high-definition image presentation. It’s the wonderful textures that give this film its impact. You might want to take a bath afterward to wash off the filth and blood that dominates every frame o the film. While it’s certainly hyper-realistic, it is an easy world to buy into. There is that graphic novel look that doesn’t ever completely become comic book. Black levels are quite nicely rendered with infinite shadow definition. It’s dirty, but it’s also very clean, if you know what I mean.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is immersive as they come. This is a relentless and aggressive mix. You will feel completely surrounded by the mayhem. The score is often a driving machine that just propels you deeper and deeper into this screwed-up world. You’ll catch all of the dialog along with a ton of other sounds and effects. This is not the sound design you’d expect from rookies.
Shotgun Mode: This viewing mode brings all kinds of clips and background information as you watch. Fortunately, the material is also offered separately. The film itself just commands too much of your attention.
More Blood, More Heart: (45:22) HD This making-of feature is quite lighthearted. It’s also very informative. You can tell these guys are just on cloud nine. It also shows the pressure of working on your first feature. It’s one of the better behind-the-scenes features you’ll find.
Deleted Scenes: (5:58) HD There are 3 with the handy play-all option.
Alternate Ending: (:33) HD This one tacks on the fate of Abby with The Plague.
Video Blogs: SD These are a series of short internet updates made during production.
Camera Test Reel: (3:28) HD
Fangoria Interviews: Rutger Hauer (11:20) and Jason Eisener (33:09)
HDNet – A Look At Hobo With A Shotgun: (5:13) HD Really just a promo piece.
Original Trailer: (2:09) SD This is the award-winning trailer that started it all.
Movies are serious business. Box office numbers are like scripture readings to the brass who head the major studios. Even the independent filmmaker has to deal with the cold reality that it takes money to make a movie. Many find themselves somehow corrupted or changed by the atmosphere. It’s nice to catch a glimpse of that pirate spirit that still exists in some corners of the movie world. I won’t promise anything deep here. I will promise that you’re going to have loads of fun. Of course, it still would be nice to see Eisener make a few pennies for his effort. “Any spare change?”