In 2007 filmmakers, Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino teamed up to make a different kind of movie-going experience. They wanted to bring people back to the days of the exploitation double features of the 70s with their two film set: GRINDHOUSE featuring PLANET OF TERROR and DEATH PROOF. While an instant cult hit, GRINDHOUSE’s concept was too much for mainstream audiences to grasp and the double feature failed to live up to expectations. One thing that did come out of it though was the fake movie trailers that ran before and between the movies. MACHETE, THANKSGIVING, WEREWOLF WOMEN OF THE SS, were just some of the titles. The trailers became instant sensations on the net. MACHETE has already been made into its own feature.
Wanting to get back to his independent roots, Rodriguez opened a competition for filmmakers to submit their own fake exploitation movie trailers. The winner would have their work join the others in the GRINDHOUSE experience. Canadian filmmaker Jason Eisner saw his chance and jumped on it, putting together an insane vigilante story called HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN. The trailer won and screened during Canadian showings of GRINDHOUSE. More than just winning the competition though, Eisner’s idea of a shotgun-wielding homeless man taking on crime in a town gone bad touched off an internet sensation with over a million views. The studios took notice and the result: a low budget, high action feature film starring Rutger Hauer.
HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN starts out the way you might expect, with the anonymous Hobo (Hauer) riding the rails into town. Viewers immediately notice the colors of the environment as the train rolls through the beautiful countryside. Everything is almost too bright and the color too strong. This changes when the train begins rolling into the town of Hope. The landscape transforms, graffiti covers the walls, the streets are covered with trash. It is clear that Hope is not the right name, perhaps Hopeless would be better.
Hobo starts trying to establish himself in this new environment, and to do so he finds a shopping cart and spends the day collecting cans to raise a little money. Unfortunately, he walks down the wrong street and sees a man running for his life. The man, Logan (Robb Wells) has a manhole cover around his neck and when his pursuers catch him they drop him into an open sewer hole so only his head sticks out. It turns out his brother is the local crime lord, Drake (Brian Downey). Drake wants his incompetent brother dead and he wants that death to show the town who’s boss, so he has his sons Slick (Gregory Smith) and Ivan (Nick Bateman) do the deed. A barbed wire noose tied to a truck bumper pops Logan’s head off in a horrific spray of blood and Hobo quickly understands the way of the world in this town.
Instead of keeping his head down as he should, Hobo intervenes to save a young prostitute named Abby (Molly Dunsworth) from a rape. Although he saves the girl, he is beaten by the police and tossed away to die. Abby finds him and takes him home. We learn she is just as alone as Hobo and the two form a sort of bond. Hobo goes to a pawn shop to buy a lawnmower and try to start a business, but that dream is shot down by robbers in the store readying to kill an innocent woman and her child. In a fit of rage, Hobo grabs a shotgun and kills the robbers. Hobo takes the shotgun and starts his new life, bringing justice to the town, one shotgun shell at a time.
HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN is a fun movie. It is filled with the kind of over-the-top violence that makes ratings boards cringe and grindhouse cinema fans cheer. Although relatively new to the job, writer/director Jason Eisner shows a keen eye for what works and what doesn’t. Working with cinematographer Karim Hussain, Eisner’s film uses color to enhance the atmosphere and intensify the emotions. The story itself is simple and some of the acting by the supporting characters is not the best. However, not all stories need to be complex and where the acting isn’t great it only enhances the film’s grindhouse feel.
What makes HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN really work is the way Hauer brings his character to life. In one scene, Hobo stands before a hospital nursery looking at the babies inside. He delivers a poignant monologue about the nature of life that helps explain why he’s doing what he’s doing. It is a powerful, well-written scene that shows Hauer’s amazing screen presence and Eisner’s skill as a director. HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN is not a movie for everyone. Its over the top violence, while almost comic book in nature, is still gruesome enough to turn some people away immediately. However, if you are a fan of grindhouse cinema, or just someone who enjoys a good mix of action, violence and humor, then check out Jason Eisner’s film HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN, low budget, B-movie cinema that shows some serious grade-A talent!