This review originally appeared as part of Spout’s 2011 Sundance coverage, where it shared a post with “The Mill and the Cross.” It is being re-posted now that it’s on DVD
“Hobo with a Shotgun” is a fun, comically violent throwback reminiscent of early Troma films, only much better looking, in which Rutger Hauer stars hysterically as the title hobo with the title shotgun. Based on what was initially a fake trailer, winner of a competition where the prize was placement of the trailer on Canadian prints of “Grindhouse,” it is in some ways a lookalike cousin of last year’s “Machete.”
However, I think it’s better than “Machete” (which I enjoyed), because it doesn’t need to reach for any political issues. Maybe you could say it addresses public apathy, a theme it would share with the popular Slamdance documentary “Superheroes” (both films also include a car smashing into a homeless man’s shopping cart). Or, the easy target of mass desensitization to violence.
Really, though, it’s best to just think of it as a recall of the exaggerated reflections of urban decay seen in films of the ‘70s and ‘80s. And because of that irrelevancy to anything present it can simply be enjoyed. That is, if you can stand a lot of blood and gore, children being burned alive in a school bus, limbs being whacked off by a lawnmower blade, people being stabbed with ice skates and other shocking, debauched, so-astounding-its-hilarious violence.
Of course, there is also much shotgun action, including one moment that joins “Piranha 3-D” in having nasty fun with castration — and showing just a tad too much. You definitely get what’s promised by the name of the movie, and unlike some other title-is-synopsis features (“Snakes on a Plane”), “Hobo” is entirely satisfying as a movie, too. It’s an urban western in which an outsider (Hauer) arrives in a relatively lawless town, cleans up and brings justice with the help of a young prostitute (newcomer Molly Dunsworth) — humorously for the western fans, Hauer’s hobo keeps calling her a schoolteacher, a play on the genre’s conventional character types — by bringing down a brutal clan led by a weaselly maniac named Drake (Brian Downey).
“Hobo with a Shotgun” is now available on DVD, Blu-ray and video on demand outlets.
Recommended If You Like: “The Toxic Avenger”; “Machete”; “Defendor”