Hobo with a Shotgun (2011)
by Corinne Rizzo
When a film starts out as brilliantly in color as this film does, one might expect some well thought through and artful surprises. Sitting comfortably in a vibrant red boxcar surrounded by the slightly enhanced colors of trees whizzing by, our stereotypical hobo waits for his destination to approach. And with this scene, the viewer might feel as though they’ve got a pretty good grasp on the type of film on deck, though Hobo with a Shotgun falls short of the grind house/satire it seems to promise.
The opening credits reveal a highly contrasted world in a visual sense which prepare the viewer for a heightened experience and in that sense, the film delivers. Our Hobo hops of his stereotypical train without much attachment to anything and heads into town. When he gets there, a place that was once supposedly Hometown, USA, has turned maliciously violent. Almost as if the Hobo and the viewer have stepped into an alternate universe, the first glimpse into the town shows Drake and his duo of offspring clamping a manhole cover around the neck of nameless character played by Rob Wells (of cult television fame Trailer Park Boys). Drake is our head gangster, the guy everyone fears and a name nobody utters.
So when the Hobo witnesses such a fucked up situation he understands that a hero is needed, but makes no move, also understanding that he isn’t prepared to become the vigilante his character is written to become. The situation escalates on a whole other level when the nameless character trapped in the manhole cover is set inside the cover’s respective manhole. A rope is tied around his neck, the other end attached to Slick’s motorcycle. The last frame in this opening scene is Drake celebrating his undefeated dark behavior.
Drake has used this fear tactic to overrun the city. He is the under lord in charge of setting his two sons Slick and Ivan (appropriately dressed in varsity jackets with each of their names respectively embroidered on the back) to uproot mayhem when things become too quiet. The opening scene is Drake’s unveiling and while it’s ultimate in its violence, with no real motive and no real justice being served, it lacks what other grind house type films seem to achieve.
It feels as though Jason Eisener created a film in the vein of the genre, but forgot the most important part of filmmaking, the viewer. This slight oversight is forgiven in the first fifteen minutes of the film as Hobo meets a prostitute. Hobo, having nothing to offer her but solace for her daddy complex, is taken in by Abby who has all of those material things Hobo is without. Together they make a nearly endearing pair and it is understood that they have eachother’s backs when shit goes down.
Something is missing and it has nothing to do with the actors in the film as they are mediocre at best, or at least over acting at best, often practiced in the genre to get the downhome grind house feel. The story lacks a genuine premise, which makes it hard for the viewer to accept the characters and the location. The rules of this imaginary place are hard to follow and it’s easy to resist it all together.
It is understood that the genre this movie falls into is uncategorically violent and bloody and without reason, but when compared to a movie like Planet Terror, where there is some sense of normalcy before it all comes crashing down, the viewer has nothing to connect to. There is no past life for the hobo or the prostitute and it makes you wonder how anyone in the town survived up to this point without being recklessly slain. How did Drake come into power? The movie lacks dedication to these questions and therefore loses the authenticity of premise that other grind house/cult classic movies enjoy..
The film feels unfinished and unfocused. The gore and guts are there for those who celebrate ultraviolence in films, but it’s not unlike amateur pornography in that way. Not everyone needs a reason to get off, they just do. But for those watching with intent, nothing is airtight. The film almost functions entirely on the holes in plot and tears in continuity.
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Eventually, Hobo turns vigilante and surrogate father and starts in on the violence and Abby the Prostitute is right there to help. Blood and guts become funny in some scenes as the characters the viewer finds it hard to feel for laugh at the idea of anyone being smuggled inside of dead bodies or entire sets of genitals being blown off by a homeless guy. People are dismembered and protective battle armor is made out of lawn mowers and trash cans. Things get weird and times (Santa Clause abducts a child) come and go where one might not entirely regret dedicating time to such a film. Though in the end, the viewer is left unfulfilled as the plot lays out the final scenes, revealing exactly what one expects to happen.
Running only eighty six minutes in length, the film is worth watching, if for nothing else, the cult potential. This movie is on the radar as a worthy flop in an unstoppable genre.
Top Five Reasons to see Hobo with a Shotgun
1) It ruins your appetite, therefore leaving you with a lower caloric intake for the day, which can be healthy sometimes.
2) A villainous character meets his fate while bleeding out from a gunshot wound to the genitals.
3) There is a ridiculously incoherent story about a bear involved.
4) A man dressed as Santa Claus drives around abducting children.
5) There is a Freudian love story between a prostitute and a hobo.
Hobo with a Shotgun is now available on Blu-ray, DVD, and Netflix Instant Queue.