Aficionados of exploitation know the disappointment of gathering with drinking buddies to watch some choice-sounding trash, only to be let down by a movie with just a few juicy scenes and corny lines between long stretches of tedium. Director Jason Eisener’s Hobo With A Shotgun is built to be an exception. Originating as a fake trailer during the promotional campaign for Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino’s Grindhouse, Hobo With A Shotgun knows exactly what it is and whom it’s meant to attract. It’s a hyper-violent, self-conscious throwback, with the sickly plastic aroma of a tape that’s been gathering dust in the corner of a video store since 1984.
Rutger Hauer plays the title character, a drifter who shows up in a dirty town run by a sadistic millionaire (Brian Downey) who stages garish displays of bloodletting for paying audiences. Pushed too far, Hauer picks up a shotgun in a pawn shop, and with teenage hooker Molly Dunsworth as his sidekick, proceeds to take on all the town’s bad guys: first, the low-level thugs and perverts, then the boss’ Tom Cruise-esque douchebag sons, and ultimately the armored guards known only as “The Plague.” He becomes Public Enemy No. 1 to Downey and his goons, and a hero to the downtrodden, though secretly he dreams of trading in his arsenal for a lawnmower and skipping town to start a yard service.
Could Eisener have taken this premise and made something just as awesome without the constant winks to the audience? Possibly. The problem with “faux-bad” movies is that it can be hard to separate the intentionally sloppy from the merely incompetent, and at times, Eisener and his screenwriter John Davies range a little too close to the latter. But never let it be said that Hobo With A Shotgun doesn’t deliver the goods. It’s imaginatively perverse, with gore galore and plenty of quotable dialogue. More importantly, it’s never boring, which is the key criterion for exploitation. The film even has a message of sorts: When life gives you razor blades, make a baseball bat covered in razor blades.