Hobo With a Shotgun stars Rutger Hauer as a Hobo who just happens to have a shotgun, in a city where a hobo with a shotgun isn’t necessarily frowned upon until said hobo with a shotgun starts using said shotgun. Then it’s a problem.
It must be a positive sign that director Jason Eisner’s fleshed out, feature length Grindhouse trailer doesn’t just use shotgun deaths. Those are some of the best ones sure, but sliced off heads, hacksaw murders, toaster electrocution, hockey skate stabbings… you know, the usual, are the fun ones. It’s important that an audience has the variety in their execution-style slaughter. Wouldn’t want them getting bored.
Hobo With a Shotgun isn’t meant to be realistic or a serious take on societies ills. You probably guessed that from the eloquent title, one step away from Hobo With a Shotgun Fights Snakes on a Plane, which is the only way the film could be any better. Just in case you were confused before the uproariously bloody, violent, and lawnmower focused finale, you’ll see a group of super street thugs apparently feeding their giant squid pet. Never mind that there’s no water; nothing here is supposed to connect the film to our world. It’s Hauer’s world… with a shotgun.
Yes, this is the modern exploitation spin on ’70s cinema, using violence as an answer if only because the budget allows for endless gallons of bodily fluids. And let’s face it: if you’re in the target audience, there is no possibly way to turn down a film titled Hobo With a Shotgun. It works because it lives up to the title, no tricks, no lies. It is what it says it is.
The important thing though is that it keeps tone, almost gleefully playful as it burns up an entire school bus worth of children and a homeless mother sheltering her baby from a molotov cocktail. If it’s even humanly possible to turn such events into utterly absurd takes on what we find acceptable in society, Hobo With a Shotgun will find a way to do so.
The record setting violence kicks off at 33-minutes when yes, the hobo finds his shotgun, and it’s a blood thirsty ride to the finish. The film challenges every societal norm, becoming the type of film that Congress will adore showcasing out of context clips from as they attempt to protect the children from the horrors of Hollywood. Too late. We’re well past that now.
Hobo was shot with the Red Mysterium-X, an evolution of the Red One, capable of 4K and better low-light quality. To capture the gritty look of the Grindhouse Hobo is paying homage too, grain is layered on top, and without any forceful scratches or specks. How does it hold up? Well, if this singular film is any indicator (and it’s likely not), the Mysterium is the definition of black levels. They’re brilliant here, deep, rich, satisfying, and totally convincing. They have none of the faded, flat qualities the Red usually carries with it, consistent throughout even as the movie dives into the dankest, darkest alleyways.
That’s great of course, a sign of things to come hopefully too. That fake grain structure though? Magnet’s somewhat lackluster encode can’t keep up. There’s a distinct possibility that’s the source too, the grain entirely artificial and unnatural. It’s obviously sitting over the image as opposed to being a part of it. It doesn’t kill off the contrast though, the harsh, brutal whites remaining pure.
The color palette, saturated to the extremes and at times wholly monochromatic, is certainly no help either. Drenched in vivid reds that bleed due to the excess, artifacting reaches near the depths of DVD, swarming the image as the paltry, inadequate bitrate suffocates under the pressure. It’s a mess in spots, yet able to rebound, even if this becomes yet another film drenched in orange and teal. Did grindhouse films do that? No, they didn’t, and neither should Hobo.
There’s plenty of texture to go around though, close-ups not shy about preserving facial detail or the explicit gore after the shotgun does its thing. Hauer’s aged face has plenty of defined, crisp lines, wrinkles, and eventually blood splatter. City streets are lined with graffiti, all of it detailed to ‘nth degree even if the compression isn’t keeping up its end of the bargain. Problematic, but partially intent and partially lackadaisical encoding.
This isn’t a complete vintage experience, obvious from the (almost certainly) budgetary constraints of going digital, and the fidelity of the audio. The opening credits sacrifice the full-bodied, electronic and synth ’80s vibe for something a little more grizzled and faded. Those bold, yellow credits sit perfectly behind the analog-like music, setting a mood and a style.
After that, it’s about the shotgun. It doesn’t carry the weight or the power you would expect, the sound effects held back slightly as to lessen the impact. Bass isn’t what it probably should be for the co-star, the sub rumbling if not becoming a force to be reckoned with.
Surrounds also don’t come out to play, the mix preferring the stereos for sending vehicles to the sides as they rip heads from victims. And yes, it’s common enough that it’s worth mentioning. The only legitimate ambiance comes from the arcade around 12:30 in, music blaring and the typical electronic bleeps from the machines swelling up into the rears. It’s not as exciting to listen to as it is to watch, but that doesn’t mean the DTS-HD mix is lackluster.
A commentary brings in director Jason Eisener and Hauer to discuss the film at (obviously) length. The real gem is the Shotgun Mode, a pop-up feature containing 44 segments of raw, behind-the-scenes blips totaling 1:46:27, longer than the main feature itself. The best part? You can view each one separately, which is exactly how it should be done.