A friend of mine gave me a copy of this the other day; I’ve been looking forward to seeing it, having followed its infamous Machete style genesis from the Grindhouse double bill as a jokey trailer, to a full blown film starring 80s legend Rutger Hauer. I’ve always admired Hauer for his abilities ever since watching such movies as Flesh and Blood, The Hitcher, and Wanted Dead or Alive. As for Hobo with a Shotgun, he gives his performance a feel of raw power, like something slowly building to explode. As for the film itself, well…
What is it about the old seventies and early eighties exploitation movies that are so different you cannot copy those flicks today? Is it the low budget, which restricted the effects to only a handful of showstoppers, and instead used a lot of atmosphere to fill in the time? Perhaps it was the cheeky feel of someone out to make money, but at the same time delivered a quality film with some jumps and sick scenes. Maybe it could be an era that simply cannot be duplicated unless by a master craftsman; Quentin Tarantino came close with Death Proof, and no, I’m not a big fan of his, but I saw where he aimed for with the movie – keep the shocks spaced apart for maximum effect.
So, what happed to Hobo with a Shotgun? Rutger Hauer rides into town on the back of a train to a nice theme that has touches of the Cannibal Holocaust main title music, and expects to go about his usual day of surviving as a homeless man. Instead, he’s greeted by a guy with a camera filming fights, in an idea inspired by the Bumfights DVDs – some guy is being beaten half to death for a few dollars. In the next street, Hauer watches in horror as the lead bad guy The Drake, who is the white suited town gangster, and his sons remove the head of their brother/uncle with a fountain of crimson. Next he sees… hold up, stop. This is the problem. Flashy editing aside, there’s too much and it doesn’t slow up. It has a Toxic Avenger style OTT humour that works for Troma, and, say, Bad Taste, but this is done with no spirit. This is gore violence with no style. Maybe I’m getting old, but when I watch tons of gore I like to have as well an interesting story and interesting characters.
Rutger Hauer meets Abbie (Molly Dunsworth), the prostitute he saves from The Drake’s sons, but is sliced up in the process whilst in the local police station with the help of a corrupt cop. She cleans him up and gives him a bed. There’s a brief bit of character building as he tells her about bears – obviously drawing comparison to himself: solitary has its own circle, if you step into the circle it’ll rip your face off. Back on the street, he sees fights, shots, and a paedophile driving past in a car as a little kid screams in the backseat; the paedo laughs like a panto villain. Hauer has had his eyes on a lawnmower in a pawnbroker shop since he hit town, so he can to start up his own business. Seeing its $49.99, he goes to the kid with the camera and eats broken glass for money… I’m not making this up. In the pawnbrokers as he’s about to buy the lawnmower, there’s a robbery – the thieves put a gun to a baby’s head, etc. Hauer sees a shotgun for the same price, wavers on his change of plans emotionally, and then blows the hell out of the three robbers in a hail of gore. He buys the gun and heads out to hunt any criminal he finds, including the evil The Drake and his sadistic sons.
The film has a great intro with a nice old school title sequence and music while we worship Rutger Hauer as he arrives into town. Then the non-stop gory violence and the cartoon characters come into it. If this was the idea of the film, it didn’t pay off well; the spirit of old exploitation movies does live on… but just not in this.
©2010 – 2011 Cinematic Horror Archive, Dave J. Wilson – All work is the property of the credited author(s) and may not be reprinted or reproduced elsewhere without permission.