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The award winning SXSW trailer turned feature-length movie, Hobo With a Shotgun is the story of a homeless man (Rutger Hauer) who decides to take the law into his own hands. Looking for new streets to call home, the titular hobo hops off a train and enters Hope Town, a city overrun with drugs, violence, crooked cops, and a slimy leader by the name of Drake (Brian Downey of Lexx) who runs the place. The hobo dreams of one day starting a lawn mowing business, but before he can purchase a lawnmower at the store, local gang members break in to rob the place. He notices a shotgun on the wall next to the lawnmower and decides to take action, realizing that the only way to clean up Hope Town is to deal with the scum himself.

 Hobo with a Shotgun
As the original Death Wish proved in 1974 (and as more recent films like Gran Torino and Harry Brown have reinforced) watching grizzled aged men take on the scum of the streets is a lot of fun. Hobo with a Shotgun dives head first into that sea of guilty pleasure, and adds ultraviolent action with the dark-comedic touch of early Troma films to the mixture. For the most part, it works well. The loving mockery of the genre is most enjoyable when the film is living up to its whacky title, and the immensely likable Rutger Hauer is blasting away with his shotgun in the neon soaked streets of Hope Town. The film uses supersaturated colours in a dazzling fashion, with deep cool colours and bright warm colours often sharing the screen simultaneously. It might be a bit overdone from time to time, but more often than not it looks great and evokes that late 80s/early 90s feel.

If the title isn’t a dead giveaway, let me point out that this movie is silly. Faces are slammed into mounds of cocaine, bright red blood spurts liberally from every wound, and one of the lead bad guys is always wearing ice skates. Those are just a few examples of what the movie has in store. I’ve noticed that people give movies like this a free pass because they know that all the inane dialogue and over-the-top performances are deliberate, but some of the actors seem very aware of how ridiculous the movie is. The lack of sincerity is noticeable in some cases, and it took me out of the fun from time to time. I enjoy my movies with a healthy amount of tongue-in-cheek, but the actors should make it their task to sell it. A poor performance still shows even in this genre. Thankfully we have the pitch-perfect Rutger Hauer in the central role to do just that, and he doesn’t miss a beat. He is as electrifying as he’s ever been, and gives the movie heart.

 Hobo with a Shotgun
The film never wanders into a Tarantino-like jumble of genres and film nods. Those hoping for a lot of clever references to older movies won’t find many here, and whether or not that’s a bad thing is entirely up to you. Personally, I appreciated how the movie submerged itself in the aesthetics of the genre without resorting to lazy imitations. Sometimes the movie sidesteps into some otherworldly material. In the first instance of it, involving a school bus from hell, I didn’t think it worked at all. I’m perfectly fine with a grindhouse spoof swerving into bizarre territory, but some subtlety would’ve helped to introduce the supernatural element a bit more fluidly. When it first happened, my friend turned me and said “I didn’t get that”. I couldn’t help him. As far as I can tell, the scene only exists to set up “The Plague”; a couple of ghastly medieval assassins who do the bidding of Drake. These characters help make up my favourite sequence in the film when they attack a hospital, slaying everything in their path with outrageously entertaining style.

I try not to spend too much review space comparing movies, but in the small world of grindhouse spoofs, I’m finding it nearly impossible to avoid. The most obvious comparison is to Robert Rodriguez’s Machete. Both films began as fake trailers and went on to become real movies. Machete worked hard to fit a plot around the trailer, while Hobo with a Shotgun completely reworked the source material. Personally  I enjoyed Machete, but I found it inconsistent and Rodriguez’s love of CGI was a big turn-off for me. Thankfully in Hobo with a Shotgun nearly all of the violent special effects are created through practical means. Even the poorest squib effects are infinitely more satisfying than computer-generated blood effects. This scored some major points with me. It serves the film well and makes it a more authentic throwback to the movies it so lovingly imitates.

 Hobo with a Shotgun

Video


Magnolia gives this heavily stylized film a terrific 1080p (h.264/AVC) that keeps up with the wide range of neon colours splendidly. The movie was filmed on the RED Mysterium-X digital camera, but maintains a consistent layer of grain that gives it a healthy 35 mm appearance. This disc looks very faithful to the theatrical presentation. Colours are blatantly oversaturated and contrast is boosted. You can see some blocky artefacts if you look very closely at the saturated outdoor scenes, but this is more than likely a result of the original colour tampering and not a fault of the Blu-ray disc. The constant heavy use of neon colours and purposefully gritty post-processing prevent it from being the cleanest possible Blu-ray image, but it does a wonderful job of preserving the intended look of the film and should please fans.

Audio


The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track falls in line with the exceptional transfer. Rear channels are used fill the room with the eerie synthetic music and project the sounds of panic in the more busy street scenes. They get a lot more usage than your average popcorn action flick. Dialogue levels are appropriate and even the sounds of blood squirts come through crisp and distinguishable. Shotgun blasts are loud and jarring like they should be, often ringing through multiple sound channels. The score sounds great. The electronic music with heavy bass sounds very clean, and gives the bass channel a workout. Sometimes the score has a rumbling undercurrent that rattles the listening environment. It’s one of the most dynamic audio tracks I’ve heard in a while, which is surprising given the films adherence to retro filmmaking style. Trust me, it’s a good surprise.

 Hobo with a Shotgun

Extras


There are a large amount of extras on this disc. Aside from an interactive movie watching mode that has more additional footage than the movie’s runtime, we have two commentary tracks, a making of, deleted scenes, an alternate ending, video blogs, a camera test reel, and some interview footage with Jason Eisener and Rutger Hauer. There are also some HD-net features (not reviews here) and some trailers, including the original trailer the film is based on. No subtitles are included with commentary tracks and special features.

Shotgun Mode – Behind the Scenes Interactive Movie Feature (1:46:27, HD) is an option you can turn on that allows you to stop and view small featurettes during the film. A shotgun crosshair appears on the screen, and then you hit Enter on your remote and are whisked away to a lot of unproduced behind-the-scenes footage of the filmmakers and actors messing around on set. Without any narration or interview segments, these segments are not very informative or fun to watch. Most people probably won’t waste their time on these, but devout fans have plenty of material here to chew on. You can view the clips separately in the special features section.  

Commentary with Jason Eisener and Rutger Hauer: This is the more laid back of the commentary tracks. Most of the runtime is spent talking about the performances and the process of shooting scenes. Rutger Hauer shares his thoughts on scenes and gives some insight into his acting processes. He’s very honest.

Commentary with Jason Eisener, Jon Davies, Rob Cotterill, and David Brunt: This more populated filmmaker commentary track is much easier to listen to. David Brunt, the “Hobo” from the original trailer, is quite a character. The producers and filmmakers talk a lot about their childhood influences and what drove them to making a movie like this. They also give some explanations for the film’s more bizarre scenes that the other commentary track lacked. If you’re going to pick a commentary track to listen to, I’d go with this one.

 Hobo with a Shotgun
More Blood, More Heart: The Making of Hobo with a Shotgun (45:22, HD) is easily my favourite of the special features. It does what a “making of” feature should do. It gives you a wealth of insight and builds your appreciation of the film. I found myself liking the filmmakers a lot more than I thought I would from the “Shotgun Mode” clips. They seem like a humble bunch of guys who just have a great time making films together. Certain scenes from the movie make a lot more sense when they explain the origins of them. It covers the history of the film and involved process of putting it together with just the right amount of depth. I particularly loved Hauer’s bit about how these new digital cameras are easy to set up and he doesn’t get time to rest between takes.

Deleted Scenes (5:58, HD): A small gathering of deleted scenes and alternate footage. They are structured in an unusual way, with most of them being included in a montage with only music playing over them. It works, seeing as most of the takes are short and just feature goofy mayhem occurring.

Alternate Ending (0:33, HD): This is a very short alternate ending that could’ve been tacked onto the end of the film, and thankfully was not. It is way too silly and inappropriate in the context of the ending.

Video Blogs (SD): These are nine short video segments that were filmed on set. They are approximately 20-30 seconds each. There is nothing particularly noteworthy here.

Camera Test Reel (3:28, HD): It is far down on the list of special features for a reason. It’s just some test footage shot with the RED camera.

Fangoria Interviews (44:29, SD): Two separate interviews, one with Rutger Hauer and one with Jason Eisener. Fans interested in Rutger Hauer’s input and what drew him to the film will find something to like here. Overall, there isn't much material or information here that wasn't covered in previous features or the commentary tracks.

 Hobo with a Shotgun

Overall


The visually intriguing Hobo with a Shotgun isn’t the most consistent entry in the recent grindhouse spoof genre, but it is held together by solid pacing, good use of practical effects, and an immaculate performance from Rutger Hauer as the lead. Magnolia has delivered fans a stellar visual and audio presentation. Extra features are plentiful but only a choice few are worthwhile.

* Note: The below images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.


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