Highfalutin art films be damned!  Last night, the Sundance Film Festival’s midnight movie series premiered Jason Eisner’s exploitation throwback Hobo With a Shotgun at the sold out Library Theater in Park City.  Eisner’s short film Treevenge was a fan favorite of last year’s festival, and this year he returns with a feature length showing off new and improved shock-core chops.  The film, starring Rutger Hauer, Molly Dunsworth, Gregory Smith, and Brian Downey, is an ultra-violent romp featuring electrocutions, eviscerations, decapitations, and shotgun blasts galore.  And that’s not even the craziest stuff!  To learn more about the most gruesome film at this year’s fest, check out the rest of the review after the jump…

The Players:

  • Director:  Jason Eisner
  • Writers: John Davies & Jason Eisner
  • Starring:  Rutger Hauer, Molly Dunsworth, Gregory Smith, Brian Downey, Nick Bateman

The Plot:

Rutger Hauer plays a nameless Hobo who rides the rails into Scumtown (formerly Hopetown), the most corrupt, dangerous, and generally awful city on the planet.  Upon arrival, he takes it upon himself to take a stand for decency and clean up the streets.  However, the criminal kingpin known as the Drake (Downey) and his bloodthirsty sons Slick & Ivan (Smith and Bateman) keep the city in a constant choke hold of fear and panic.  With the help of a kind-hearted prostitute named Abby (Dunsworth), the Hobo and his shotgun lay waste to the forces of evil and cleanse the city with the blood of its criminals and psychopaths.

The Good: 

  • Self Awareness – This film feels like an extension of Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino’s Grindhouse, which is to say that it was made with a complete knowledge of the films preceding it, and with careful attention and care to do justice to a genre the filmmakers feel passionately about.  The acting is over the top, the dialogue is intentionally clunky (“You can’t solve the whole world’s problems with a shotgun!”), the music is fuzzy and swells at comically inappropriate moments, and the violence, though graphic and extreme, is clearly stylized for the cinema.  It’s not just tongue in cheek humor–the tongue has pierced straight through the cheek and is wagging at the audience.
  • Rutger Hauer – This guy is a legend.  His performances can be profound (Ridley Scott‘s Blade Runner), or they can be silly (Buffy the Vampire Slayer).  Though he’s faded in and out of the mainstream over the years, he remains a star, and this is the role that’s going to remind everyone of that.  He throws himself into this role headfirst (literally, in more than a few scenes), and is completely believable as the kind of person who is too crazy to function in society, and has to roam the streets alone.  For a sixty-seven year old man, he does a lot of his own stunts.  He kicks in doors, jumps through windows, and dangles from sewer holes with surprising ease.  He brings the intensity to this role that has made him one of the greatest working character actors of his generation.
  • The Violence – If you are a fan of gory films, this one has it all for you.  Bone breaks, flesh carving, gut-busting, barbed wire decapitations, and lawnmower fueled limb amputations are all prominently featured.  There are maybe three or four minutes of this film that aren’t drenched in blood.

The Bad:

  • The Violence – If you are not a fan of gory films, then this one is NOT for you.  Bone breaks, flesh carving, gut-busting, barbed wire decapitations, and lawnmower fueled limb amputations are all prominently featured.  There are maybe three or four minutes of this film that aren’t drenched in blood.
  • Niche Audience – This is a movie made for a very specific group of people: the denizens of cult and midnight movie theaters and basement video shops.  If you are not well versed in the genre this film is representing, then it may not sit right with you.  Everything about this movie is cranked up to the most extreme degree, from the acting to the camera work, and it comes off very corny and cheesy.  If your favorite film of the year was The King’s Speech, and Hollywood studio pictures are the types of movies you limit your tastes to, then you will likely not enjoy Hobo with a Shotgun.

Overall:

Hobo With a Shotgun is the kind of movie that was made by fans for fans. They take such delicate care to make sure that every bit of this film’s production value reflects the classic films they are paying homage to.  If you like going to packed theaters and joining the party atmosphere of cult crowds as they shout, gasp, wince, and laugh loudly throughout the whole film, then you will have a lot of fun.  If you prefer well tempered subtle and cerebral films, then see just about anything else.

Rating: 7.5/10

Video:

Get the Flash Player to see this content.