Simultaneously gritty, campy, and laughably grotesque, this true grindhouse product shows a crime-ridden city, riddled with corrupt cops, psychopathic mobsters, and a general sense of anarchy, as a beaten, morally uncompromised homeless man takes a stand for righteousness. The film is straight out of the Troma school of filmmaking, which, in this case, is a compliment; the over-the-top irony of it all, the hyper-reliance on sensationalism and violence, and the cartoony, straightforward protagonist (in this case, a hobo with a shotgun). However, the production values on display are of a noticably high quality than much of Troma’s output, with the gore being fully realized and awesome, the sets and cinematography feeling well-realized and unrushed, and the presence of the veteran grizzled badass, Rutger freaking Hauer. For those of you who don’t know who Rutger Hauer is, hopefully you’ve seen Blade Runner so you know how amazing he is as the “villain,” Roy Batty, in that one. Otherwise, seek out The Hitcher (the original, GOD it annoys me that I have to specify that), the film version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or Nighthawks to see how moody, intense, and just plain scary this guy can be. Here, his dead-serious attitude not only makes his character a blast to watch, in contrast with the outlandish, ridiculous elements that surround him, but holds up the entire film, which could have been lost in a sea of irony and self-parody without him. The rest of the cast is good, but not up to Hauer’s transcendent standard, save for Gregory Smith, who successfully subverts his former presence as a child-actor in films like Small Soldiers and Harriet the Spy with his deliciously psychotic guido character (I really wish more people could have the same ‘Is that Gregory Smith?’ moment I had while watching him torch schoolbusses full of children and the like). The gore moments here are extreme and in abundance, unlike the other grindhouse trailer adaptation, Machete (Hobo With A Shotgun started as a short film entry for a grindhouse contest, which actually played before the Machete trailer in the Canadian prints of Grindhouse), and makes up for what it lacks in budget and big-scale Hollywood set-pieces with strong makeup and clever ingenuity; in short, it is a near-ideal Troma movie, just made without the input of Lloyd Kaufman and his cronies. My largest gripe with the film is with the “hooker with a heart of gold” character that the Hobo befriends, which was poorly acted and conceived, and, more egregiously, deflated the pace of the film. However, even she gets her moment in the sun by the end, stabbing baddies with a wonderfully improvised weapon, but that doesn’t escape the fact that she serves as a grounding and realistic element in a film that gets its sickest and purest pleasures from going gleefully off the rails.
Recommended for fans of more outlandish cult films, such as Six-String Samurai or Tromeo and Juliet, or of Rutger Hauer or Gregory Smith, both of whom are phenomenally and scene-gnashingly grotesque. This one’s easy to get ahold of, and it’s worth hunting down as it actually fulfills its promise of being a take-no-prisoners, blood-soaked revenge picture.