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Hobo With a Shotgun

(2011) ** 1/2 Unrated
84 min. Magnet Releasing. Director: Jason Eisener. Cast: Rutger Hauer, Gregory Smith, Brian Downey (II), Nick Bateman, Robb Wells.

/content/films/4091/1.jpgThere's a contingent of the moviegoing public—and, it stands to reason, the filmmaking private—that can be described as gleeful sadists. David Cronenberg's squirmy "body horror"is high-toned by comparison to the cinema of sadism, which invites cheers for exploding intenstines, propulsive head-severings, and spontaneous castrations, preferably motivated by a vengeance that will not be denied. Is the phenomenon just the outré extension of the appeal of all horror (sucks to be them; yep, I still have all my limbs; it's good to be alive)? Is it just the logical result of centuries of upping the ante of entertainment violence (after all, ol' Oedipus gouged his eyes out and Shakespeare fancied cannibalistic revenge)? Oh, who knows. All I know is there's now a splatter comedy called Hobo With a Shotgun, and some people are gonna love it, and some people are gonna hate it. Who am I to judge?

So what's it about?

Are you kidding? Well, there's this hobo. And he has a shotgun, see? '80s icon Rutger Hauer plays the hobo, who unwisely passes into Hope Town (after all, its welcome sign rechristens it "Scum Town"), sneers at the assholes shooting bum-fight videos, and becomes entangled in the civic unrest of a town overrun by criminals. Chief among them is crime lord "The Drake" (Brian Downey), whose own Shakespearean mini-drama involves whether or not either of his two sons (Gregory Smith's Slick and Nick Bateman's Ivan) will prove worthy of one day succeeding him. Being the last honest man, the hobo cannot stand by and countenance murder and rape, which makes him public enemy number one to the evil Drake and his manical sons. Meanwhile, a bond develops between the hobo and a prostitute that he saves, a young woman named Abby (Molly Dunsworth).

At this point, exploitation parodies have become old hat, though director/co-writer Jason Eisener uses Hobo With a Shotgun to relive '80s trash cinema (think Troma) rather than the '70s already thoroughly fetishized by Tarantino and his offspring. In this way, Hobo With a Shotgun—based, like Machete, on a faux trailer—is more akin to the work of Robert Rodriguez. Though gonzo in content and lurid in style (especially the heavy oversaturation of color), Eisener's bloody film has a drier sense of humor, more of a poker face to its parody than Planet Terror. What distinguishes Hobo With a Shotgun from its stylistic forebears is subtle, though no one would call this movie "subtle." The screenplay plays like the result of a "Write the Most Vile Line Ever" contest, which in itself will be a huge draw for cinematic dumpster divers. Sample: "Tell it to Mother Teresa while she's finger-banging you in hell!" If that doesn't tell you whether you want to see this movie or not, I don't know what will.

Calling Hobo with a Shotgun distasteful is to miss the point: the question is whether or not bad taste is your bag. It's ultraviolence, a bit of nudity, and a lot of urban rage set to a synth score. The underdog hero evokes Westerns, but there's also an implicit but never indulged political undertone to the character, which straddles the vigilante and the pathologically disaffected "shooter on a rampage" (a headline blares, "HOBO STOPS BEGGING, DEMANDS CHANGE"). For all its irony, then, Hobo With a Shotgun has a stealth appeal that's scarily sincere: the film's villains—criminals and corrupt cops—could easily be stand-ins for politicans and CEOs overseeing urban decline. The acting here is exactly as good as it could and should be, given the script, with one obvious standout. The film's glue comes from old warhorse Hauer, who lends an odd integrity to his animalistic anti-hero. Hobo With a Shotgun is disgusting and appeals to the worst human instincts, but there's something to be said for the way Hauer both gets laughs and makes them stick in the throat by finding a cockeyed soulfulness in the trash heap.

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Aspect ratios: 2.41:1

Number of discs: 1

Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1

Street date: 7/5/2011

Distributor: Magnolia Home Entertainment

Hobo With a Shotgun comes to Blu-ray courtesy of Magnolia, with an image that blazes like a trashcan fire. You won't see color like this anywhere else: I'm confident this meets with the director's intentions, and the digital photography looks crisp in high-def. This can't possibly look as deliriously in-your-face on standard-def; Blu-ray is the way to go. The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio is just as aggressive, with roaring rear-channel activity at times threatening to overcome front-channel dialogue; it's a potent mix, to be sure, and the music comes on strong in every cheesy detail.

The Blu-ray also includes a staggering array of bonus features, beginning with the Shotgun Mode, a playback viewing option that branches out to behind-the-scenes pods. These forty-four "Shotgun Mode Clips" (1:46:27, HD) can also be accessed directly from the menu. There's also a commentary with director Jason Eisener and Rutger Hauer, and a commentary with Jason Eisener, writer John Davies, producer Rob Cotterill, and actor David Brunt. Fans of the film will love hearing the procession of strange stories about the film's origins and making, as well as getting a sense of the talent's personalities.

"More Blood, More Heart: The Making of Hobo With a Shotgun" (45:22, HD) tells you everything you wanted to know about the film, with behind-the-scenes footage and cast and crew interviews.

Also collected here: "Deleted Scenes" (5:58, HD) and an "Alternate Ending" (:33, HD), nine short "Video Blogs" (SD), a "Camera Test Reel" (3:28, HD), "Fangoria Interviews" (44:29, SD) with Jason Eisener and Rutger Hauer, the loopy promo "HDNet: A Look at Hobo With a Shotgun" (5:13, HD), "Grindhouse Trailer Contest Winner: Hobo With a Shotgun" (2:07, SD), "Hobo with a Shotgun Faux Trailer Contest Winner: Van Gore" (2:01, SD), "Redband U.S. Theatrical Trailers" (4:08, SD) and "Canadian TV Spots" (1:32, SD)

Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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