Rutger Hauer, who you might remember from such films as Blade Runner and…er…Blade Runner, plays a hobo who arrives in a town that’s the lowest of the low. It’s so scummy it makes the New York of Taxi Driver look like the New York of The Wolf of Wall Street, as it’s run by the brutal hand of crime boss Drake (Brian Downey). When he sees its inhabitants are beyond redemption, the hobo goes to town on the town…with a shotgun. Think Bruce Wayne if he wasn’t a billionaire.
It’s a bit like Sin City, but without the glossy special effects, as there are but one or two glimmers of light in a place far beyond saving. The family that rules the town have the law in their pockets, using drugs and public displays of violence to keep the residents in line. As our hobo cracks and starts to deal out his unique brand of “justice”, Drake orders a town-wide genocide of the homeless.
Hobo With a Shotgun paints a bleak and terrifying view of society with humans that are evil to the core. It’s like Hobbes on a bad acid trip. But with its gore-filled, blood soaked content, one can’t help but feel the message of vigilatism in the face of absent authority is pretty much just an excuse for gratuitous violence. And boy is it violent. It feels like almost every scene features some new torture technique or brutal killing.
It’s a scuzzy, splattery bargain basement gore fest out of the mould of Dead Alive, The Evil Dead or even Manborg. But Hauer’s performance and character anchors it with a modicum of genuine human appeal not found in these films. That being said, it’s pretty horrible from beginning to end, and again commits the sin of condemning people who enjoy watching strong bloody violence, by creating something that can only really be enjoyed if you enjoy watching strong bloody violence.
With its themes of taking the law into your own hands and and vigilantism it’s like a modern Western. Westerns are often found in a setting so rotten the outlaws are the good guys. But where a good western has an intriguing plot or well done action, Hobo With a Shotgun has people’s heads being crushed between two dodgem cars. It’s grim, and at times goes too far. Did we need to see a man burning to death a bus full of school kids to know he’s bad?
Basically this is a revenge film set up to allow as much violence as possible. It’s over the top and has flashes of brilliance, but is ultimately just another low budget splatter fest. A tiring, full-on rollercoaster ride; the occasional hints its heart may be in the right place are drowned out by the buckets of blood on screen. Once you boil away the message, cancelled out by the gratuitous nastiness, it’s just another gore fest aimed to shock.