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 Hobo With A Shotgun

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Donald McKinney
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PostSubject: Hobo With A Shotgun   Fri Aug 05, 2011 2:08 pm

Hobo With A Shotgun started out life as a fake trailer by Canadian director Jason Eisener, who had done various little shorts over the years, including the astonishing Treevenge. His fake trailer for Hobo With A Shotgun was entered as a contest for the South By Southwest (SXSW) International Grindhouse Trailer Competition in Austin, Texas. Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino were looking for a fake trailer to put in their double bill feature Grindhouse (2007), up against trailers with such titles as Cannibal Hookers From Hollywood, Load Bearing Stud and Too Dead to Die?, Hobo With A Shotgun won, and got into some prints of Grindhouse shown in Canada and America. The trailer was made for a mere $150, and according to co-writer/producer Rob Cotterill, most of it's budget went on "videotape, pizza and smokes". Since then, demand for the trailer was high, even though it couldn't be seen by alot of people on it's original release, although it ended up on YouTube, and the trailer ended up on the Grindhouse Blu-Ray. Eisener and his team decided to make a feature length version of Hobo With A Shotgun, done for $3 million, (most of the money from the Canadian tax payer Razz), but it's a great piece of exploitation cinema, much more authentic than Grindhouse or even Machete were, down and dirty but with alot of imagination on display.

This begins when a nameless hobo (Rutger Hauer) travelling around the country in the boxcar of a train to start a new life. However, he gets off in the hellhole town of Hope Town, which is like one big slum, where crime is rife and there's poverty and murders. He is witness to one big murder when he comes into town, that of Logan (Robb Wells), murdered by his own brother The Drake (Brian Downey), who is the big crime kingpin in town and rules over it with his two nihilistic, sadistic sons Ivan (Nick Bateman) and Slick (Gregory Smith). Sickened by what he see's, the Hobo see's a lawnmower for sale in a pawn shop for $49.99, and is forced to humiliate himself by eating glass. He goes to buy the lawnmower, but as he's about to, the pawn shop is raided by a trio of robbers burst into the store holding everyone hostage. Then, the Hobo see's a shotgun for sale, costing $49.99. He uses it to shoot the robbers down, and buys that instead. He's not a man who wants to resort to violence, but sickened by what he see's in Hope Town, enough is enough, he turns vigilante, and goes about cleaning up the town with his shotgun. Working his way up towards The Drake and his sons, with a little help from prostitute Abby (Molly Dunsworth), who says she's a schoolteacher. The Hobo's actions give people in Hope Town someone to believe in, someone to inspire them too.

It is a very violent film, but for a film with such a low budget, it manages to do alot. Eisener manages to create a film that feels like it was made in the 1980's, right down to the clothing and music. (Listen out for Run With Us from The Raccoons playing over the end credits, an odd choice, but it works!!) But, as a feature debut, it's inspired and very entertaining, and it's a debut that ranks alongside debuts like George Miller's Mad Max (1979), Sam Raimi's The Evil Dead (1982) and Peter Jackson's Bad Taste (1987). It manages to be a homage to what those films were able to do with very little money, with no CGI, Eisener and his team manage to do alot with physical effects and a bit of gory make-up, and it looks much more effective than what millions of dollars worth of CGI would do. Shot entirely in Halifax, Nova Scotia, it manages to do alot with it's location, turning it from a picturesque town into a scum-infested hell hole. But, it's a good film which makes good use of it's blood and gore effects. One particular effect with a lawnmower is reminiscent of Peter Jackson's Braindead (1992), but it works well and it's a film about one unlikely hero standing up against unbeatable baddies.

Rutger Hauer has always been an underrated actor, and this one makes a good companion piece to The Hitcher (1986), whereas in that he was a psychotic killer, here he's a poor, tarnished man who becomes a killer, but for different reasons. He's never been given the credit he deserves, despite doing Blade Runner and numerous films with Paul Verhoeven. Here he's given an opportunity to be a hero, one with smarts and scars, but a hardass hero standing up for a broken down town. Brian Downey, best known for appearing in Lexx and Millennium, makes a nasty villian as The Drake, one with an eccentric side, but a nasty piece of work too, one who would even kill his own brother using a manhole cover around the neck, a length of rope and a high speed car. But, the real standouts are Gregory Smith and Nick Bateman as The Drake's two sons Slick and Ivan, who are even nastier than their father. Dressed in white suits, with shades and greased hair, they sink to depths including torching a schoolbus full of children with a flamethrower, and killing a newsreader with an iceskate, but the Hobo is able to stand up to them. If this film were made back in the 1980's, it would have been cut to shreds by the BBFC for all the violence on display. Surprised





It is a refreshing change to get a film like this once in a while, and I hope Eisener goes on to greater things, as he shows great imagination and confidence with this film. It has some things going on that you can't even believe are going on, including woman dancing in a shower of blood from a decapitated victim and the Hobo finding an inventive use for a toaster. It's alot more grittier and nastier than Planet Terror, Death Proof or Machete, which had limits, but this doesn't. But, it manages to be great fun and a good piece of exploitation entertainment, Hauer makes good hero, and you could imagine seeing this back on a double bill in the 1970's or 80's. There won't be anything like this again for a while, but you won't find Hollywood rushing to copy anything like this, it's too violent and extreme for them. Hooray for Canadians for having the balls to make a film like this, it's a great antidote to summer blockbusters and CGI.
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