by Tony Di Nizo
From the December 2015 IssueWith a title like Hobo with a Shotgun, how can the movie be anything short of amazing? If you were to ask this, your assumptions would be correct, because it is, indeed, amazing. So amazing, in fact, that it’s worthy of an entire article explaining why it’s a must-see. I’m going to divulge as little of the plot as possible, because it’s best if you go in not knowing what to expect. And Hobo with a Shotgun is definitely filled with the unexpected.
My first encounter with this modern day masterpiece was in my sophomore year of high school. I was at a friend’s house and the three of us were looking for a movie to watch. We were searching for a film we could laugh at, not laugh with. Just a terrible piece of cinema with no artistic merit whatsoever that we could make fun of and later reference to the dismay of our peers. We browsed the On Demand pages until we read a title that instantly caught our eyes. A movie called Hobo with a Shotgun. We had heard of the film before and were ecstatic at the prospect of finally seeing it. So, we pressed play and the three of us were incredibly surprised and delighted by what we saw.
An aspect of my “film nerdiness” is my tendency to look into the cast, creative team and production process of a movie after seeing it. Hobo with a Shotgun was no exception. After some digging, I found that before the film was produced, a trailer—which was made for only $150—won a trailer contest to promote Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino’s upcoming double feature, Grindhouse. The trailer was so well received—in large part due to the internet—that it evolved into a full-length feature film made in 2011.
While I enjoy this film immensely, it is certainly not for everyone. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give it a try. It’s incredibly graphic and without giving anything away, the story follows one deplorable character (a homeless man) hunting another equally deplorable set of characters (a crime boss and his sadistic sons).
The film reflects our current culture’s obsession with violence, sex and profanity. Those three topics have always been a subject of controversy in entertainment, and it seems that every year, pop culture pushes the envelope on what it can get away with. This engagement with unsavory material is why Hobo with a Shotgun can be seen as garbage in the eyes of the more optimistic and pure-minded. It explores a sin-ridden society that is headed straight for the gutter.
To say the imagery is ridiculous would be an understatement. It ranges from a group of topless women beating a body with baseball bats, to someone getting decapitated while hanging with their head sticking out of a custom made manhole cover; however, it’s not intended to be taken too seriously. There’s a reason why it’s so absurd and over-the-top. The film challenges you, to see if you can stomach these incredibly disturbing images and scenes. The sequences of brutal violence are what separate Hobo with a Shotgun from your typical Hollywood fare.
In a movie with such a low budget, small-scale and provocative subject matter, viewers come to expect cringeworthy acting to be part of the package; however, the film includes some surprisingly compelling performances. The standout is Rutger Hauer as the titular Hobo. While some of the other actors ham up their performances to the point of being cartoon characters, Hauer’s turn is completely devoid of winks and nods to the audience. The character is absolutely sincere in his actions. He’s humble, likeable and can be a total badass when he needs to be. What makes him these things are his responses to his violent surroundings. He may be mentally unstable, but he uses violence as the last possible resort, never reaching for his shotgun, unless he is forced to do so.
Hobo with a Shotgun was a complete surprise to me. I was shocked by the amount of commentary and thought-provoking material coming out of a movie about a homeless man becoming a vigilante in a hyper-violent world. Though this movie may seem like a joke, I encourage you to watch it. There are plenty of themes and ideas to be found here and one can have a blast discussing them with friends afterwards. Hobo with a Shotgun is a perfect example of why you should not judge a movie by its title.