Hobo with a Shotgun (UK - BD RB)
If you're a fan of the film prepare yourself to disagree with Chris' Blu-ray review...
After jumping from a freight car and ending up in a new city an ageing Hobo (Rutger Hauer) finds that, far from getting a second chance at life, he has arrived in an urban nightmare populated by murderers, rapists, paedophiles, prostitutes and corrupt cops. All the Hobo wants out of life is to be able to afford a second-hand lawnmower from the local pawn shop and start his own small business, but after he saves a young hooker called Abby (Molly Dunsworth) from a couple of sadistic punks called Slick (Gregory Smith) and Ivan (Nick Bateman) things start to go wrong. It turns out that these lowlifes are the sons of the local crime boss, Drake (Brian Downey), a psychopathic killer who runs the city. Pushed beyond his limits the Hobo decides to arm himself and sets out to clean up the city one shell at a time.
Hobo with a Shotgun is the latest in a line of seemingly never-ending ‘homage’ pictures; throwbacks to a bygone era of low-budget exploitation films screened in dingy cinemas across America. So basically not the sort of thing I grew up watching. Because I have no emotional attachment to the experience I was left slightly perplexed as to why anyone would purposely set out to make a ‘bad’ film. Aside from the curiosity value of seeing the bloke from the Guinness adverts dressed as a homeless man, gunning down cartoon villains while spitting pithy lines, there’s really not much going on. There’s no plot to speak of beyond the central conceit of a hobo getting tough on crime, the acting isn’t anything to write home about and the frequent, gory slapstick wears thin in no time at all. Having said that it’s not all bad, as the third act provides some pretty decent (if weird) action and some slightly more inventive splatter sequences. Still, like some of the other recent ‘tributes’ I could probably have watched the film condensed down to its two and a half minute trailer format and still got just as much enjoyment out of it.
Unlike some of their recent releases ( The King's Speech and Season of the Witch to name two) Momentum delivers a proper 1080/24p (AVC) transfer of Hobo with a Shotgun at its intended ratio of 2.40:1. It's a heavily stylised picture with an over-saturated palette full of bright neon and exaggerated colours, which makes it hard to gauge the accuracy of the transfer because nothing looks like it would in reality. This is especially true of skin tones, which are so orange they would put an Oompa-Loompa to shame. Contrast is also heavily boosted, which results in some crushed blacks and blooming whites, but this appears to be by intent rather than error. Detail is impressive throughout, particularly in the close-ups, with Rutger Hauer's steely blue eyes looking especially menacing. There’s also a healthy layer of digitally added grain for that ‘authentic’ look. All things considered it’s an impressive video transfer, but curiously one that actually goes against the ‘grindhouse’ aesthetic that the film was going for.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is also fairly impressive, opening with some neat stereo panning as a car window is smashed and the sound of the alarm crosses from left to right. From there on things open up considerably, with the sounds of the besieged city coming at you from all angles courtesy of some heavy surround utilisation. The eerie, Carpenter-esque synth score is the dominant force for much of the running time, but it’s actually responsible for a lot of the film’s atmosphere so it’s not generally a problem. I say generally because there were a couple of moments when I thought that it was perhaps a little too much as it overpowered the dialogue, which is otherwise fairly intelligible. The various gunshots and explosions all pack quite a wallop and there’s some seat-rumbling bass during the final act. All-in-all the audio track is better than I was expecting, but like the video before it I believe the fact that it sounds so clean and modern actually detracts from the retro experience.
Hobo with a Shotgun’s press release sold this disc short in the supplements department. What I thought was a disc containing a commentary and a few short making of featurettes actually includes a ton of bonus material. First up is the ‘Shotgun Mode’. When this mode is activated prompts will appear on the screen at various intervals and pressing enter on the remote will grant access to a number of behind-the-scenes featurettes. Don’t worry though, if you don’t want to sit through the film all over again the featurettes are available to view individually in the extras menu. The disc also includes not one, but two commentary tracks. The first features director Jason Eisener and star Rutger Hauer and the second Eisener, John Davies (writer), Rob Cotterill (producer) and David Brunt (Grindhouse trailer ‘hobo’).
Moving on is a featurette entitled ‘More Blood, More Heart: The Making of Hobo with a Shotgun’ (45:22 HD), which takes a fairly lengthy look at the film’s production. This is followed by a three deleted scenes (05:58 HD) and an alternate ending (00:33 HD), both of which are fairly short. Nine video blogs each with a running time of around thirty seconds come next, followed by a camera test reel (03:28 HD) and Fangoria interviews (44:29 SD) with Rutger Hauer and Jason Eisener. ‘HDNet: A Look at Hobo with a Shotgun’ (05:13 HD) is a short promo piece for the film that presumably aired on the US HDNet channel, ‘Grindhouse Trailer Contest Winner: Hobo with a Shotgun’ (02:01 SD) is the original contest-winning trailer that inspired the feature, and ‘Hobo with a Shotgun Faux Trailer Contest Winner: Van Gore’ (02:01 SD) is apparently a faux trailer inspired by the feature version of the original faux trailer, which is too meta for my brain to handle. Finally we have the US redband trailers for the film (04:48 SD).
Okay, so I'm fairly comfortable in saying that I'm probably not in this film's target audience. Maybe it's just one 'grindhouse' picture too far, but I've sort of had enough of these tributes to low-budget films of yesteryear. I liked Grindhouse (and it's constituent parts) well enough and I even had some fun with Machete, but Hobo with a Shotgun left me cold. It's a one-note joke that, Rutger Hauer aside, features some pretty poor performances and the sort of slapstick gore that I haven't seen done particularly well since Braindead. He's a hobo, with a shotgun, who kills caricatures in a variety of bloody ways. That's it. Thankfully if this sort of thing is your bag (baby) the disc looks and sounds very nice and there is plenty of bonus material to keep you occupied. It's not for me, but whatever floats your boat and all that...
* Note: The above 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.
Review by Chris Gould
Suitable only for persons of 18 years and over
Release Date: 1st August 2011
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English
Subtitles: English SDH
Extras: Shotgun Mode, Audio Commentaries, Featurettes, Deleted Scenes, Alternate Ending, Trailers
Easter Egg: No
Director: Jason Eisener
Cast: Rutger Hauer, Molly Dunsworth, Brian Downey, Gregory Smith, Nick Bateman
Genre: Action and Crime
Length: 86 minutes
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