“You vultures…circling the city…tearing off the flesh from everything that is innocent.”
Directors Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino reignited the horror-exploitation genre with their double-bill offering “Grindhouse” (2007) that was composed of two films, “Planet Terror” and “Death Proof.” It was a thudding reminder of underground cinema normally shown in cable TV during midnight or during matinee shows in theaters. Violence, sex, guns, and gore were all packed into one movie. Rarely do these types of movies have a mainstream following, but there is a solid cult base for movies like this. The “Grindhouse” movies generated enough revenue to break even at the box office. But the exploitation cinema didn’t stop with the arrival of the “Grindhouse” movies. Rodriguez soon followed up with “Machete” (2010), but this time with an added mainstream formula, touching a sensitive issue concerning illegal immigration. Now, we have another entry in the exploitation-cinema genre, “Hobo with a Shotgun” (2011).
Stylistically, these movies are really dirty to look at: intentionally bad prints, defused colors, and dimly lit sets form the foundation of the film’s palette. There is nothing remotely happy about the exploitation cinema. Its serious tone is often mistaken for a parody of old cult horror classics–which at times is true–especially in the case of “Planet Terror.” Whether this type of cinema is a social commentary on the state of affairs of the human condition or about society in general is something debatable. That said, “Hobo with a Shotgun” borrows horror elements from “Planet Terror” and the live-and-let-live theme from “Death Proof.” Then, instead of giving a machete to its main characters, Hobo is trusted with a shotgun, and hence we have a hybrid-homage film, “Hobo with a Shotgun.” The film tries to present the transformation of its protagonist, who is driven by injustice and the wretched conditions in a city. As a whole, the film depicts one man’s resilience against injustice and violence.
Rutger Hauer plays the central character of Hobo, who is homeless and arrives in a new town looking for a fresh start. But he soon finds himself trapped in urban mayhem. Drake (Brian Downey), along with his two sons, Slick (Gregory Smith) and Ivan (Nick Bateman), rule the town. Upon entering the town, Hobo witnesses the death of Drake’s brother in public, murdered by Drake himself. Thereafter, Hobo tries to stay out of trouble but is quickly pulled into the mess when Slick tries to kill a local prostitute, Abby (Molly Dunsworth). Hobo rescues Abby and both develop a close bond, as Abby sees Hobo as a father figure. Along the way, Slick and Ivan pursue Hobo for the brutal climax with Drake.
Right from the opening shot, the film is fiercely unforgiving in its tone. The sight of a man decapitated by a manhole cover, followed by a girl taking a bath in the fountain of blood popping out from the dead body, makes you cringe in disgust. It is one of the most brutal opening scenes I have ever seen in a movie. Of course, there are other mind-blowing brutal scenes later on. The filmmakers make a statement about how the infection of lawlessness has impacted the world around this small town. You get a sense that you are witnessing a war zone, and Hobo’s survival depends on his efficiency in navigating the rural violence without getting pulled into it. Everything we see is driven by Hobo’s character. Hobo enters the dark regions of the town, and he witnesses bloody sights of death everywhere. Where he enters and how he responds gives us the impression of the depth of violence occupying every living human. Employing handheld cameras, the film rapidly moves from one region to the next, realistically presenting the utter devastation of the city. Indeed, humanity is lost in this town.
Ruttier Hauer gives a gutsy performance as Hobo, and his image of holding a shotgun is forever imprinted in the annals of cult cinema. His performance, while being serious, has a flavor of understated comedy. In the script, writer John Davies develops several themes in relation to violence in society and how deeply engraved it becomes in certain situations. Davies cleverly develops Hobo’s character, as the story invests some time in showing Hobo’s transformation to a violent recourse. The transformation forms an integral part of the overall story; Hauer molds this aspect to Hobo’s character rather convincingly. In addition, Dunsworth is also good in her debut role. Her scenes with Hobo are convincingly portrayed and emotionally well developed. I think her role is a tough one, given the rough character of a prostitute she is asked to play in her first role. But she comes out sailing, never getting overwhelmed by the demands of an unconventional character.
The violence is over the top, and certainly relentless; it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. Merits aside, the film’s story takes a conventional route in presenting Hobo’s story. The revenge tale operates in the “First Blood” mode, and it lacks depth. The two main characters–even though shown as lonely and disenchanted with the world– lack complexity to make them more interesting. More so, they appear one-dimensional amidst all the violence. An addition of five minutes would have helped the story by developing these characters further.
Despite these flaws, “Hobo with a Shotgun” is fun and occasionally entertaining. If you liked “Planet Terror,” “Death Proof,” and “Machete,” chances are you will like this latest cult offering as well.
Magnolia presents “Hobo with a Shotgun” in an aspect ratio of 2.40:1, encoded using an AVC codec. Even with a modest budget of $3 million, the film was shot using the Red Mysterium-X camera system, and the results are quite impressive. The film’s gritty nature is perfectly presented by adding the textural grain in post-production. The colors are deep, and the film’s palette mainly consists of deep reds, and yellow and green hues. The images are crystal clear, and the sharpness is never an issue. There is plenty of blood that pops right out. The close-ups have remarkable detail and the skin tones are natural, too.
“Hobo with a Shotgun” roars with a thunderous-sounding lossless 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track. The sound coming out from a shotgun is loud and thundering; shotguns never sounded better. The bass is active and deep throughout. Likewise, the dialogue is crisp and clean, and the sound level is appropriately set. The rear-channel rumble in the gunfight scenes and their presence, sonically, fills up the room.
First, we get a special mode called the “Shotgun Mode,” which is a behind-the-scenes interactive movie feature. After you click on the target that appears, you will be taken to interviews, stunts, make-up sequences, and many more segments. Following this, we get two commentary tracks with filmmakers that are fun to listen to and packed with details about the film. They talk about the original movie that motivated this movie. Up next, we get a comprehensive look at behind-the-scenes in “More Blood, More Hear.” Here, we see the director, writer, and producer talk about the film. They shed light on the script and the original movie. We also learn how they procured funding for this project. Next, we get a set of two deleted scenes, followed by some extended sequences. We also get an alternate ending and video blogs.
Up next, we get a short segment, “Camera Test Reel” that shows a brief demo of the RED camera. Next, “Fangoria Interviews” shows Jason Eisener and Rutger Hauer discussing the film. Following this, there is another short promotional interviews in “HDNet: A Look at Hobo with a Shotgun.” Next, we get the original Grindhouse trailer that was an impetus for this movie. Finally, there is a Redband U.S. theatrical trailer, along with TV spots.
If “Machete” was pure hack-and-slash fun, then “Hobo with a Shotgun” has all the firepower to entertain. The film is fun and brutal and with its visceral violence, it is definitely not for the faint of heart. Clocking a mere eighty-six minutes, the movie breezes quickly by. In spite of a few minor issues, “Hobo with a Shotgun” stands alongside other recent “Grindhouse” movies. This Blu-ray offers superior A/V qualities, thereby making it highly recommended for fans of the film.