Hobo with a Shotgun is exactly the kind of movie I want out of cinema. Take a high concept and just do the hell out of it. It opens with ‘70s style credits, including the copyright date under the title and a credit for Technicolor. A beautiful score introduces Hobo’s (Rutger Hauer) ride into “Scum Town” (some of its residents even call it “F*** Town.”) Scum Town is even more of a surreal world than The Warriors, with looting and fighting in the streets, graffiti everywhere. It looks big.
The villains roll into town led by The Drake (Brian Downey), all in white suits and even a white car with gull wing doors. Their creative murders include human manhole covers and torturing people with amusement park rides. Is that even a spoiler? How could you possibly imagine that until you see it?
Hobo just wants to buy a lawnmower and it’s legitimately emotional. Of course, he makes the more awesome choice instead. He brings Drake’s son Slick (Gregory Smith) into the cops but they’re corrupt too. The hero gets brutalized like the best of them, and cleans up the open wounds with a few dabs of whiskey to resume the fight.
You get your montage of Hobo blasting scumbags with a shotgun and it’s artfully done. Sometimes you only see the body flying through the shot to make it more visually interesting. The weaponry escalates with creative homemade combos, on armored warriors who use harpoons on land, and vertically. The film even maims its heroes and then uses the wounds as weapons.
The plot gets way more complicated than the title suggests. Drake turn the town against Hobo, so he has to team up with Ally (Molly Dunsworth), a prostitute he saved from Slick. They’re on the run, hiding and the tables keep turning. At one point Hobo has to use the shotgun to demand medical attention, so it’s multipurpose.
This movie breaks the rules of taste and strikes that delicate balance. Slick kills children in a way you won’t believe, and graphically too. Then Hobo encourages Ally to become a teacher and you really do care about Abby.
The dialogue is like Aaron Sorkin wrote an action movie. The newspaper headline announcing Hobo’s rage is brilliant. Hobo is articulate and eloquent without being preachy. One-liners make reference to Mother Teresa, and they really work to make it make sense. I had to write this one down: “I’m gonna wash this blood off with your blood.” Oh, and Hobo actually says the words “Hobo with a shotgun” in Hobo with a Shotgun!
The supporting cast overdoes it, and not in the self-referential way. I think they just go big to go big. The editing doesn’t always flow. Director/editor Jason Eisener always cuts to the gore, even if it doesn’t quite flow. Low angles are overused, just like real ‘70s movies overused the zoom lens.
Hobo with a Shotgun delivers the extreme fun it promises and it can excuse those flaws as tone. So here it is, the first great movie of Sundance: Hobo with a Shotgun.