Hobo with a Shotgun isn’t actually a real movie. From the self-explanatory title, to the film stock’s super-saturated colors, to Rutger Hauer’s semi-silly grizzled expression, everything about it seems to indicate a sort of unreality in the production. And in fact, Hobo began its life as a fake trailer, shown before screenings of Tarantino’s and Rodriguez’s Grindhouse double-feature. Given its genesis, the inevitable comparisons to Planet Terror and Death Proof seem like a conveniently built-in marketing device, drumming up feverish interest for the depraved cult fan base that constitutes the modern-day viewership of “grindhouse” cinema. As this gem of a splatter film enters its third weekend as a midnight movie at the Music Box Theater, consider the review that follows a public service announcement: If you can stomach it, Hobo with a Shotgun is the most entertaining movie you will see all summer.
The story is simple: our hero, known only as the Hobo (Rutger Hauer), rides a cargo train from points unknown through an idyllic landscape and stops off in Hope City, an urban nightmare populated with drug dealers, prostitutes, and armed robbers. Soon after bearing witness to numerous acts of unspeakable violence (including a rather creative method of decapitation in the middle of the street), the Hobo interjects on behalf of a pretty young prostitute named Abby (Molly Dunsworth), just as she is about to be dragged off to some horrible fate by Slick (Gregory Smith), the favorite son of Hope City’s reigning crime boss Drake (Brian Downey). In return for his gallantry, the Hobo suffers abuse and injustice at the hands of the corrupt police chief (Jeremy Akerman) and Drake’s less-favored son Ivan (Nick Bateman). Left with little choice, the Hobo invests his savings in a 20-gauge shotgun that he uses to clean up the streets. Drake and his sons, who run Hope City by way of a horrifying agenda of violence, find their authority threatened by the Hobo’s streak of vigilante justice and wage war against him and everything he holds dear.
The final third of the film introduces the viewer to a supernatural element, in the form of Drake’s secret weapon: a pair of centuries-old demon-soldiers known only as the Plague. The Plague’s rampage through the flickering fluorescent-lit hallways of a hospital tin search of the vigilante Hobo is one of the highlights of the film. If there is one thing Hobo with a Shotgun could have used, it is more of the Plague.
Now, a word of warning that should not come as a surprise: expect a total gorefest. Just how gory, you ask? Well, you can find an exhaustive catalogue of the film’s violent acts here (spoiler alert). You might have difficulty erasing some of those images from your head. If graphic violence disturbs you, do not go see this movie. Rent The Care Bears Movie instead. For those who can stomach the violence, Hobo with a Shotgun strikes the perfect balance of humor and gore. The surprisingly engaging story relies on the tender friendship between the Hobo and Abby for its moral center. These unlikely heroes give the audience something to root for in between cascades of blood.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this review, Hobo with a Shotgun is a midnight movie this weekend at the Music Box Theater. It may be your last chance to see this film on the big screen. DON’T MISS IT!