Hobo with a Shotgun (2011)

Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #501


Number of Views: One
Release Date: January 21, 2011 (Sundance)
Sub-Genre: Exploitation
Country of Origin: Canada
Budget: $3,000,000
Box Office: $748,453
Running Time: 86 minutes
Director: Jason Eisener
Producers: Rob Cotterill, Niv Fichman, Paul Gross
Screenplay: John Davies
Special Effects: Zane Knisely, Henry Townsend
Visual Effects: Noel Hooper
Cinematography: Karim Hussain
Score: Alexander Rosborough
Editing: Jason Eisener
Studios: Rhombus Media, Whizbang Films, Yer Dead Productions
Distributors: Alliance Films, Magnet Releasing
Stars: Rutger Hauer, Molly Dunsworth, Brian Downey, Gregory Smith, Nick Bateman, Jeremy Akerman, Pasha Ebrahimi, Robb Wells, Drew O’Hara, André Haines, Agnes M. Laan, Duane Patterson, Brian Jamieson, Tim Dunn, Mark A. Owen, David Brunt, Scott Vrooman


Suggested Audio Candy

[1] Power Glove “Hunters”

[2] Lisa Lougheed “Run With Us!”

[3] Adam T. Burke “Pacer”


Jason Eisener is a man after my own heart. He may yet not be familiar to the majority of you as, to date, most of his films have been shorts but he really should be. As well as weighing in for the superb V/H/S/2 with his segment, Slumber Party Alien Abduction, and supplying us with one of the finest entries from The ABCs of Death with Y Is for Youngbuck, he was also responsible for 16 minutes of splatter goodness by the name of Treevenge back in 2008. Eisener is one of an elite handful of young hopefuls for whom bigger things seem destined and, in 2011, he finally received the shot he richly deserved with his affectionate homage to the exploitation flicks of yesteryear, Hobo With a Shotgun.


It all began back in 2007 when Robert Rodriguez announced a faux trailer competition for his upcoming Grindhouse double-bill with pal Quentin Tarantino. Of thousands of entries submitted, Eisener’s came out top of the rubble and Hobo With a Shotgun ended up rubbing shoulders with Machete on the final trailer reel. While Danny Trejo’s grizzled Mexican muchacho has since graduated to bigger things, other projects like Eli Roth’s mouth-watering Thanksgiving have yet to come to fruition. However, after gaining a slice of cult status with millions of YouTube hits, Eisener finally got his chance to bring his homeless gunslinger to a wider audience.


Initially played by unknown David Brunt, the part of the hobo in question was all set to be resumed until Brent expressed his concerns over whether or not he could carry a full-length feature on his own. After gracefully stepping down, Eisener started his search for a replacement and when Rutger Hauer got a sniff of John Davies’ screenplay and his agent advised him against taking the gig, the Dutch powerhouse decided to do the precise opposite and give this curious project the time of day. Hauer is an anomaly. Since making his grand name with such cinematic marvels as Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner and Robert Harmon’s The Hitcher, he has gone on to amass over 150 credits and lost none of the playful sparkle in those baby blue eyes. Who better then to wield a Remington 870 and take out the trash?


After riding into the aptly renamed Scum Town on a passing boxcar, our vagabond finds himself repeatedly dismayed with the lack of generosity shown by the locals. Crime is evidently the only currency here and there is no end to its foul riches. Pedophile Santas ride around with every intention of emptying their sacks, pushy pimps are recruiting from a decidedly early age, and law enforcement is under questionable leadership. Local villain The Drake (Brian Downey) runs shit from the street and takes great pleasure from terrorizing the residents along with the rotten fruit from his loins, Slick (Gregory Smith) and Ivan (Nick Bateman).


The terrible trio’s treachery knows absolutely no end. Whether this be taking a flamethrower onto a fully loaded school bus and toasting pre-scholars, fashioning gushing grue fountains in the high street, or offering cocaine facials to teenagers, The Drake’s boys are usually up to no good. Meanwhile, inside this nefarious narcissist’s nightclub, all manner of debauchery is playing out. Dodgems are used for the purpose of decapitation, bare feet are obliterated in the search of strong man high scores, and topless totty delight in the human piñata game. It’s a real carnival atmosphere for sure but our bemused bum has seen about as much as he can stomach.


All his heart really desires is a low-range lawnmower. $49.95 will see him good and his plan is to start up his own lawn business in the green suburbs as far from Scum Town as the boxcar will take him. Even a hobo can dream. He’s worked hard for this money, shattering bottles across his head and munching the resulting broken glass for aspiring bumfight filmmakers so nobody can say he doesn’t deserve this trim beast. It’s a toss-up when push comes to shove and he decides to give green fingers a temporary rain check as another purchase seems to currently make more sense. It’s time to take the scum out of Scum Town and who better than to report the word on the street back as it really is. $49.95 also pockets you a shotgun you see.


Enter feisty prostitute Abby (Molly Dunsworth) and many men already have. Not our hobo however, any sleepovers comprise bedtime bear anecdotes and taking showers to remove the scent of asshole from his face. Don’t ask. Anyhoots, the pair become as thick as thieves and their understated love affair adds surprising depth to their characters. Think Lost in Translation crossed with Street Trash and you’re rifling through the right dumpster.


There is a truly touching moment involving a once vacant picture frame that says all that needs to be said about their dedication to one another and Dunsworth gives a rather wonderful account of herself as the plucky heroine. If Eisener ever feels like making Hobo Bitch With a Chainsaw then he has my full endorsement to bring her back as this young lady has what I like to refer to as lady cojones. Truth is, she damn near steals the show but, instead, they share the limelight beautifully. Who says that exploitation can’t have heart?


Hauer gives a genuinely affecting turn as the titular hobo and reminds us exactly where his performances originate from. The soul. This isn’t the finest dialogue that will leave his wonderfully chapped lips but he delivers each sermon with purpose and has his very own moment of reflection as he watches over the swaddled children of our future during a hospital break-out which speaks to our own souls. The eyes are the true prize however and two more expressive orbs you will struggle to find. Make no mistake, this is one of his most personal performances and no less than a joy to behold. Eisener directs him marvelously and you can see the regard in which he is held as his lens kisses Hauer’s weathered face affectionately at every single opportunity. The trio of Downey, Smith and Bateman are also most colorful in their portrayals.


Although shot on a Red Epic, great lengths were gone to in order to give Hobo with a Shotgun its own exclusive look. Tampered with in post in order to make it aesthetically engaging, his use of highly saturated colors provide much optical warmth and director of photography Karim Hussain works with his vision intelligently. Meanwhile, Zane Knisely and Henry Townsend ensure that the primary color is red, deep red, and their splatter-laden practical effects suit the overall tone of the movie decidedly well. It doesn’t take a degree in rocket science to see that the whole cast and crew were riding one long joy boner while shooting and reportedly dozens of hours of footage were captured, making editing this beast a Mecca-like pilgrimage in itself. Kudos again to you Jason.


Audio has always played a key part in Eisener’s work and this is very much the case here also. The wildly varied soundtrack includes throbbing synthesized soundbites that Carpenter would no doubt tip his hat to and, once again, this is prominent throughout the running time. Bizarrely, herein lies my sole criticism and I promise it is constructive. Music plays a massive part in proceedings and every scene is accompanied by its very own track. I found it a little distracting, if truth be known, and others may well share this sentiment. Sound plays a significant part in telling a story but sometimes silence is more golden.


Hobo with a Shotgun isn’t a film for everyone. If, like me, you grew up with exploitation movies and are prepared to accept a certain lack of filters, then you’re in for a street wise treat but anyone easily offended may think twice about subscribing as Eisener has no interest in watering anything down for the over-sensitive. The clue is in the title and his film more than delivers on its promise. It offers numerous close-ranged blasts to the senses but, more critically, is sincere just like both Eisener and Hauer themselves, as well as their entire crew. May I suggest Hobo with a Lawnmower next time? Or perhaps a full-length outing for The Plague? Just a thought.


Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 7/10

Grue Factor: 5/5

For the Grue-Guzzlers & Pelt-Nuzzlers: Our hobo may be finding it hard to amass his $49.95 but there are riches unbounded with regards to crimson currency. Baseball bats coated with razor blades, head subtracting manhole covers, dodgem splats, intestinal bleeds, blood-drenched ice skates, flame grilled nippers, electrified toasters, harpooned hanging, and that’s just a smidgen of the splatter on the platter. Meanwhile, a few pairs of bouncing breasts never hurt anyone although I’m not convinced with how they spend their downtime.

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Richard Charles Stevens

Keeper of The Crimson Quill

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