Wednesday, July 6, 2011
Of all the recent, retro-styled, faux-"grindhouse" exploitation flix that have come along in recent years (including Rodriguez & Tarantino's GRINDHOUSE double feature) perhaps the best - and most authentic-feeling - attempt to date is HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN (2011), starring the great Rutger Hauer (SPLIT SECOND,WANTED DEAD OR ALIVE, BLIND FURY) in the titular role.
The plot is simple: a nameless homeless man (Hauer, in an incredible performance) rides a boxcar into the small Canadian city of Hope Town - called "Scum Town" by its inhabitants - a community overrun by crime, and ruled by the savage crimelord Drake (Brian Downey) and his sadistic sons Ivan and Slick (Nick Bateman & Gregory Smith). After witnessing multiple acts of violence go unpunished and experiencing the local police corruption first hand, the Hobo gives up his dream of buying a used lawnmower from a local pawnshop and instead purchases a shotgun. With 20-gauge in hand, he sets out to sweep the streets clean with a righteous hail of buckshot.
The movie has its origin as a fake trailer created by director Jason Eisener for a GRINDHOUSE promotional contest back in 2007. That trailer not only won the contest, but achieved a certain amount of YouTube fame and was even picked up by a Canadian film distribution company, which showed it in theaters with some of its movies. Like that trailer, the feature version of HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN is an incredibly fun, ultraviolent vigilante action flick that would have been right at home on an late-70s drive-in movie screen. Filled with outrageous characters, over-the-top violence and gore, plenty of black humor, and a surprising amount of heart, HOBO is, in my opinion, the most successful "retro" exploitation film of recent years.
Eisener's direction is lean and brisk. The digital RED videography is sleazily stylish, with bright, over-saturated colors and digitally-added film grain that nicely approximates the look of cheap 16mm film stock. The acting overall is appropriately broad, with B-movie veteran Rutger Hauer delivering one of the best genre performances of his career. (On my personal Rutger scale, I'd rate it just below his Roy Batty and on a par with his Harley Stone.) The charismatic Molly Dunsworth, as the abused hooker who befriends the Hobo, is also very good, bringing considerable depth to her role.
Magnet's 2-Disc Collector's Edition DVD is a great package. Disc One sports a gorgeous 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer and a robust 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack. This disc also contains two audio commentary tracks. The first features director Eisener and Hauer, while the other is a group commentary with Eisener, writer John Davies, producer Rob Cotterill, and David Brunt, who portrayed the Hobo character in the original trailer. This disc also includes a "Shotgun Mode" which allows you to view various behind-the-scenes sequences during the film, or on their own.
Disc Two includes an in-depth "Making Of" featurette, deleted scenes, an alternate ending, video blogs and camera tests. There are also interviews, an HDNet promo, the original fake trailer, the Redband theatrical trailer, TV spots and more.
If you're an exploitation film fan - and if you read this site regularly, odds are you are - HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN is definitely worth your time. As I stated above, I think it's more successful at capturing the "grindhouse aesthetic" than most other recent attempts, including such noble (and entertaining) efforts as MACHETE, BITCH SLAP, HELL RIDE, etc. It's not for the squeamish and it's not politically correct, but it is extremely entertaining and is highly recommended.
BUY: Hobo With a Shotgun (2-Disc Collector's Edition + Digital Copy)
BUY: Hobo with a Shotgun (Collector's Edition + Digital Copy) [Blu-ray]