A grindhouse homage seemingly made for people who’ve never actually seen a vintage grindhouse movie, “Hobo With a Shotgun” may well represent a breaking point in the limits of self-referential ultra-violence, as even a school bus full of children burned alive is presented as cause for laughter. Nonetheless, one must grudgingly admire director Jason Eisener’s willingness to go over the top and beyond, and the film certainly delivers what it promises. Picked up by Magnet, “Shotgun” should satisfy midnight movie gore-hounds.
Conceived as a trailer for a competition centered around Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino’s “Grindhouse” double-header (where it won top prize), “Hobo With a Shotgun” doesn’t require much explanation beyond its title. Said hobo is grizzled Dutch vet Rutger Hauer, who arrives on a boxcar train at a simmering, crime-ridden hellhole (Halifax, Nova Scotia), where he sets up shop panhandling outside a bar/drug hangout/S&M torture chamber/video arcade controlled by super-villain Drake (Brian Downey) and his two letterman-jacketed, sociopathic sons (Gregory Smith, Nick Bateman), who idly pass the time by decapitating tramps with bumper cars, in addition to even more unsavory pursuits.
Rescuing a gold-hearted hooker (Molly Dunsworth) from certain death at the hands of one of the sons, the Hobo is subsequently mutilated by the family and their toadying police chief, which prompts him to purchase a shotgun and reap all sorts of terror on the town’s inexhaustible supply of lowlifes (a pimp, an exploitation-video producer, a pedophile dressed as Santa Claus, etc.).
There’s simply no end to the squishy bloodletting, with even expository phone conversations taking place in the foreground of bizarre tortures and beatings. One may be inclined to decry the pic’s continuous, outrageous lapses in taste, but to do so would ultimately be pointless; they’re the film’s entire raison d’etre, and anyone who shows up for this surely knows what they’re in for.
Confronted with a one-joke premise, Eisener and writer John Davies simply throw everything against the wall to see what sticks, so much so that the late appearance of some motorcycling robot assassins and a giant octopus hardly raise an eyebrow. Color schemes are garish and cartoonish (in very retro-looking Technicolor), production design is reverentially stuck in the early ’80s, and the sound design is pummeling. All of this is clearly intentional, as is the hammy acting, but it doesn’t make it any less obnoxious.