Joshua Reviews Jason Eisner’s Hobo With A Shotgun [SXSW 2011 Review]

Grindhouse style films are an interesting beast, within the world of film.

Often created out of promotional material like posters or low-budget trailers, no film personifies the idea of the modern Grindhouse film quite like the feature debut from up and coming director Jason Eisner, Hobo With A Shotgun.

Based off of a trailer submitted to a contest inspired by the Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez double feature Grindhouse, Hobo With A Shotgun has become one of the most anticipated films for fans of the genre, as it not only mixes a truly great and fantastically campy premise, but a cast and crew to kill for.

And while it may not be for everyone, Hobo more than lives up to the hype.

Not much deeper than the title itself, Hobo follows the titular homeless man as he finds himself in the closest thing to hell this world has.   After playing witness to a brutal robbery, Hobo takes up arms, and decides to take to the streets to clean the city of the crime that plagues it.   Delivering justice ‘one shell at a time,’ as the film routinely states, Hobo With A Shotgun is a bloody good time, that ultimately says much more than one would truly expect from a film of this nature.

His first feature, Eisner proves to be the true wunderkind director that the film world has wanted to name him.   Not afraid of going off the deep end narratively, Eisner crafts a beautifully brutal film here, that while it may turn off those expecting a much more conventional film, those walking in relatively blind will have an experience unlike any in recent memory.   Directorially, Eisner has a great sense of action geography, and while not much is asked of him within the action set pieces, they are so stylized and lovingly inspired by films from the genre (Roger Corman’s jail films, such as Caged Heat, seem like direct visual and aesthetic inspirations), that it’s both a truly original film, as well as one that knows exactly what it’s drawing from and how to do so.   Pulling no punches, this is simply a film that is so much more.   It’s an experience.   It’s just an absolute blast of a thrill ride.

Starring Rutger Hauer, the film may be focusing on style and atmosphere, but not without some really entertaining performances.   Hauer is pitch perfect as the Hobo, giving a performance that is both perfectly campy, as well as emotionally charged.   Not just a B-movie thriller, Hobo has a lot of interesting things to say, particularly in the idea of the American Dream, and the concept of ‘a bear being locked in a zoo,’ as Eisner has stated.   Hauer gives this film a true heart and depth of emotion that while it may not have you crying, it does give the viewer a real reason to invest in this film emotionally.

Molly Dunsworth is a bit underwhelming here as the hooker with a heart of gold character, and is sadly given the brunt of the film’s conclusion, which is admittedly the least interesting aspect of this otherwise utterly compelling film.   Her performance is cliché as all hell, and the film’s conclusion just hits on its themes far too bluntly.   Gregory Smith is great here, as is the duo of Brian Downey and Nick Batemen, giving this film a collection of villains both absolutely charismatic, as well as terrifyingly nihilistic. Toss in gorgeous, neon colored cinematography and one hell of a fun score, and despite the film’s lack of a landing, the lead up to the conclusion is a thrill ride unlike anything you’ll see.

Overall, Hobo With A Shotgun is about as deep as that title suggests.   While it does have some brains behind it, Eisner for the most part takes those brains, tosses them at the wall, and makes a joke out of it.   And you know what, I thank him for it.   A wholly original take on the genre, Hobo is a brightly colored, yet absolutely pitch black film, with a comedic center and an emotional heart that gives a great sense of depth to the film.   With wonderfully campy direction from Eisner, great lead performances, and a few scenes that will leave you and your friends talking for days, Hobo With A Shotgun is simply a great film.   With a shotgun.


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