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Hobo with a Shotgun


The feel-good homeless vigilante film of the year!

Rod Lott July 8th, 2011

“Hobo with a Shotgun” started as a joke — specifically, as the winner of a fake trailer contest to promote the Quentin Tarantino/Robert Rodriguez collaboration “Grindhouse.” For some reason, it follows “Machete,” the first faux coming attraction in “Grindhouse,” to a full-fledged feature.

hobowithashotgun

Does the gag make the transition from two minutes to 86 minutes? It depends on your tastes, and “Hobo” is purposely full of that which resides on the poor side. To cult-film followers, that should be taken as a rec to rent.

The great Rutger Hauer (“Blade Runner” forever!) stars as Hobo — yes, just Hobo — a homeless, middle-aged man who solicits donations to fund a dream. As his cardboard sign reads, “I AM TIRED NEED $ FOR LAWN MOWER." He just wants to make a living at yard work.

Standing in his way is Drake (Brian Downey, TV’s “Lexx”), a greasy crime boss who looks like a “Dick Tracy” villain, and his two sons, whose letter jackets and sunglasses make them look like “Grease” bit players. They push  around and purée people like they own the city, and after a while, it’s just too much for Hobo to bear. One day, instead of buying his beloved mower, he makes a snap purchase of the title weapon and goes Charles Bronson on their collective ass.

Why, yes, the film is over-the-top. That’s the whole idea. But perhaps it’s a little too over-the-top; beheading a character is one thing, but having a bikinied woman then gyrate in the resulting geyser of gore is another. (Leave that to Troma, please.)

The last third really picks up, starting with a siege on a hospital by two metal robot types, to a score reminiscent of early John Carpenter. Around the time a tentacled monster shows up, one of Drake’s sons vows, "They're gonna make comic books out of my hate crimes!" and that’s really the best way to approach the flick: as a comic book. With slightly overexposed visuals and garish, saturated neon colors, it all but looks like one, anyway.

Its message is about as deep as the cut left on my thumb from picking a hangnail, but if you’re looking for a message, you’re at the wrong movie (allow me steer you toward “The Company Men”). And although it tries too hard to secure that fanboy love, “Hobo” remains an admirable effort with a real performance by the play-it-straight Hauer.

The Blu-ray includes the original trailer so you can see what the fuss was all about, an alternate ending that might have worked as a post-credits stinger, and a 45-minute featurette that follows the path from $150 short to $3 million feature. To bring things full circle, “Hobo” hosted its own fake trailer contest, and the winner, the artist-as-slasher “Van Gore,” is here, too. I’d love to see that, but its gore-core concept had already been made in 2007 as “Fall Down Dead.”  —Rod Lott


 
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