Most already know the creation story behind Hobo with a Shotgun. After winning the SXSW/Robert Rodriguez Grindhouse Trailer contest, director Jason Eisener’s homemade movie trailer was included in Canadian theatrical screenings of 2007‘s Grindhouse. Sharing screen time with other fake trailers by the likes of Eli Roth and Edgar Wright, his two minute short film was deemed good enough to warrant the full-feature treatment, much like Robert Rodriguez’ Machete. But Jason Eisener sure as hell ain’t Robert Rodriguez.
Rutger Hauer takes on the role of the titular hobo (replacing original fake trailer hobo Dave Brunt, who was tossed a “cop” role in this feature), a grizzled old man who tires of the mayhem and violence in Scum Town. “I am tired,” says Hobo Hauer, who lives day-to day while trying to scrape together enough skrilla for a second hand lawnmower. When he witnesses a murder at the behest of “The Drake,” a corrupt reverend/crime boss, he decides it’s time for somebody to grab a shotgun and take a stand against the rampant Scum Town crime!….well, maybe in an hour or so.
Pacing is a major issue with Hobo with a Shotgun. Eisener does his best to spread the carnage around––a beheading here, a razor-bat attack there––but the gore is cheap-looking, and frankly, it’s not even really trying. The time between kill scenes is padded with huge chunks of silly dialogue that are agonizing to sit through. The Drake delegates most of the dirty work to a pair of bullying sons, what appear to be high school lettermen with enough hair product between them to rain-seal a manhole cover. It’s hard to build a sense of menace when your bad guys look like clones of Bobby Briggs from Twin Peaks. And the acting? Amateur hour, the whole way.
With the exception of Rutger Hauer, who growls his way through every scene with palpable relish. If anything, Hobo with a Shotgun is an example of an intense performance from an actor who doesn’t seem to realize that he’s in a shitty movie. It’s like watching Denzel in Virtuosity. Too bad Hauer has so little to work with. Sure, after what seems like a few hours, the hobo finally hooks up with his shotgun and starts blasting people. But throughout Hobo with a Shotgun, I found myself repeatedly lamenting the missed opportunities…and fantasizing about all the magic Rodriguez could have worked with this exact same premise.
The argument could be raised that much of Hobo with a Shotgun is intentionally bad, that––as an homage to 70s exploitation––the weak acting and goofy dialogue are all part of the intended package. Sure, I considered that. Then I remembered movies like Black Dynamite and Planet Terror, flicks that held up a mirror to the 70s exploitation film with a certain degree of hipness, of self-awareness. In comparison, Hobo with a Shotgun is simply lazy, a color saturated cash-in on the popularity of an extremely clever fake trailer.