I am all for “camp” in movies. Drag Me to Hell, Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness pull off some of the best genre specific camp in cinematic history. It worked well because Sam Raimi understands how to immerse the audience with drama, create tension and finish scenes with a combination of humor and stylized hommage. Even the Spider-man trilogy has plenty of instances where Raimi can create campy situations out of a relatively serious synopsis. I enjoy tongue-in-cheek movies that strive to deliver exactly what is advertised, but Hobo With A Shotgun’s attempt at humor falls apart as the audience realizes the camp feels more like cheese.
Hobo vs Slick
Hobo With a Shotgun takes place in a decrepit city with a crime presence worse than Robocop, Batman Begins and Predator 2 combined. A nameless Hobo (Rutger Hauer, who’s also in Batman Begins) walks the streets, dreaming of buying a lawnmower and constantly witnesses excessive violence, police corruption, prostitution and drug dealing. People live their lives in fear of a crime boss named Drake (Brian Downey) and his two sons Slick (Gregory Smith) and Ivan (Nick Bateman). After witnessing Drake and his boys decapitate a man and stick the head on their front of their truck in the first minutes of the movie, Hobo becomes aware of just how bad things are. He later saves a prostitute Abby (Molly Dunsworth) from Slick’s attempt at rape but in the process gets assaulted by Slick and thrown out in the street to be left for dead. Abby takes in the Hobo after his act of kindness and rests him back to health.
A victim of the crime boss - decapitation by barbwire attached to a truck
Hobo is about to finally buy his lawnmower at a pawn shop when the shop gets held up by three robbers. Instead of spending the money on his dream, the Hobo reaches for a shotgun conveniently loaded and displayed right next to the lawnmower. The result is massive killing spree where the Hobo transforms into an justice wielding anti-hero, killing anyone associated with the waves of crime over the city. The news of the Hobo’s rampage reaches all media outlets (as if people still get their news on the street from TVs stacked together in a store window) and it is not long before the Hobo is infamously known.
The gritty gratuitous violence doesn’t come close to looking realistic, so Hobo With a Shotgun won’t turn your stomach. It’s really hard to take scenes seriously that involve getting on a school bus with a flamethrower to burn children alive or sawing someone’s head off with a hack saw while they are screaming for help (and oh by the way…surviving). These scenes are of course over the top, but there is nothing holding them together from the rest of the movie. Most of the scenes look like they were shot and edited (thrown together) in a weekend.
It should be known that Hobo With a Shotgun was not an adaptation of another screenplay or book, but rather an adaptation of a fake trailer that was made specifically for Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez's Grindhouse. This may explain the choppy screenplay but doesn’t explain the poor excuse for dialog, especially the lines delivered by Bateman, who come off as a bad Stifler (Seann William Scott) clone. As mentioned, the attempts at humor fall flat in most instances, except for a few clever Newspaper Headlines: Hobo Stops Begging, Demands Change and Parents Smile as Bodies Pile.
With a budget of $3,000,000 it’s hard to imagine the final product comes out as amateurish as it does. Hobo With a Shotgun is close to being unwatchable and to put this movie in perspective; barely beats out the level of film quality found in Uwe Boll’s films.