From its humble beginnings as a fake trailer created for a SXSW movie trailer contest, Hobo with a Shotgun came out guns blazing as a cult classic before it was even clear that it would be made into a full-length feature. And with such magnificent camp, gratuitous violence, and good old-fashioned gore, how could it not? I first heard about the movie when I learned it was being made available for streaming through certain sites before being released to theaters, and yet somehow or another I never got around to watching it. So when some friends called Saturday to see if I wanted to go down to Long Beach for a screening, I knew I had to do it.
In true hobo fashion, Rutger Hauer rolls into town on an open train car, apparently hoping to get a new start at life. Unfortunately the city he’s arrived in bears an uncanny resemblance to the futuristic Detroit as imagined in Robocop, but this city is even worse: it appears to be in Canada. As he sets about collecting recycling to start saving money toward a lawnmower purchase (because what homeless man doesn’t need a good lawnmower??), he quickly stumbles upon the source of much of the city’s problems. Mobster-type madman Drake and his equally mad knucklehead sons, Slick and Ivan, seem to have a chokehold on the city and its law enforcement personnel.
The sadistic family basically uses the city’s inhabitants, especially the homeless and impoverished, for their own personal amusement. And of course, what better means of amusement is there than torturing, disfiguring, dismembering, and murdering random street people? Slick and Ivan can apparently think of none.
After rescuing a young hooker named Abby from the clutches of these maniacs, Hobo takes on a sort of father-figure type role to her. Or, to put it in his terms, the bear let someone into its magic circle. (Sounds like something he could go to jail for, right?) Hobo eventually finds himself pushed to the edge by Drake and his sadistic progeny and is forced to acquire—yes, you guessed it—a shotgun!
This movie is packed with hilariously quotable one-liners (“If life gives you razor blades, then make a baseball bat covered in razor blades!”) and over-the-top violence and bloodshed. And yet somehow through its complete absurdity, Rutger Hauer is able to deliver some of his lines with a surprising sense of authenticity. Even Abby, in her “hobos aren’t homeless—their home is everywhere, so they have a bigger home than any of us” speech, manages to almost make you forget, if only for a fraction of a second, that you’re watching a movie about a hobo tearing through town with a shotgun.
This movie is a delightful and absolutely hilarious foray into a
Canadian bizarre dystopian city, and who better to be our guide than a well-armed vagrant? If you get a chance to see this one, I highly recommend it.