Hobo With a Shotgun, like Machete before it, was born out of a fake trailer made for Quentin Tarantino's and Robert Rodriguez's exploitation-throwback film Grindhouse. Grindhouse hit cinemas in 2007 as a double feature and, for the intermission in between the two films, a variety of directors contributed phony movie trailers. One of these was Machete, which Rodriguez released a full-length feature of in September 2010.
The Hobo with a Shotgun trailer was created by a group of filmmakers from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada as an entry to a contest to get featured in Grindhouse. Obviously, they won the contest, but their victory extends far beyond that, as Hobo With a Shotgun is now not only a feature-length film, but a damn good one.
The hobo in question is a fairly open role. Many actors could step into the man's shoes (or lack thereof) and give his own take. In fact, there are several actors that I would love to see take on such a role - Gary Oldman is a name that springs to mind. And yet, despite the various directions one could go with such a character, Rutger Hauer seems just about perfect. He has the intensity, no doubt. When he needs to be, Hauer can be a very frightening man. But he also has a kindness about him. He's a gentle soul, a humble man who deserves respect, for everything he's been through, for what he's going through now, and for what he'll undoubtedly go through in the future in the name of good.
When we first see him, partaking in that time-honored hobo tradition of ridin' the rails, he's instantly likable. And then he hops off the train and passes a sign on his way into Hope Town. The sign once proudly displayed the town's name, but has now been spray painted over to read "Scum Town." No worries, it'll get cleaned up soon enough.
Not long after we're introduced to Drake, the sadistic criminal ruling Hope Town with an iron fist. We also meet his sons Ivan and Slick, who share their father's passion for causing others to suffer. In his horrific introduction, Drake orders a man killed, cementing his position as someone we want to see not just taken down, but blown away with a shotgun.
Hobo with a Shotgun hits all the right notes for an exploitation film. It looks fantastic. Everything about the visual presentation of the film screams 1970s. The violence is appropriately gratuitous. The actors devour the scenery. And the plot is as straightforward as they come. He's a hobo. He's got a shotgun. He's had enough and he's cleaning up this town.
There is one scene in the movie that's almost heavy-handed in the way it says "This is what sort of movie this is." A pedophilic Santa Clause is sitting across from a playground in his car, watching children play and pleasuring himself. Suddenly, his binoculars fill with an out-of-focus shotgun. With the appropriate level of vitriol, the hobo growls "Jerk on this you child molesting shit-licker!" before painting the opposite window red. That is the kind of movie Hobo with a Shotgun is and it's one of the best in its class.
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