Hobo Stops Begging, Demands Change: Hobo With A Shotgun (2011)

Since the emergence of Tod Browning's 1932 film Freaks, a large group of directors have made it a goal of theirs to great the grotesque in moving imagery and continually push the boundaries on the unfilmable.  While much of this push towards more controversial filmmaking is spearheaded by autuer leaders like Takishi Miike, Lars Von Trier and Harmony Korine, independent cinema continues to provide its own slew of hyper-violent, bizarre and extremely watchable films. Jason Eisenger's recent offering of Hobo With A Shotgun is certainly no exception to this and is only made all the more entertaining by the always welcome presence of Rutger Hauer.  Hobo With A Shotgun is not a particularly profound movie and is far too on the nose to be a poignant social critique, but what a film like this does is allow for serious discussions on post-apocalyptic fears to become popular.  Like many zombie films, Eisenger's work really does beg the question of the values of morals when signifier of social order have become irrelevant.  The film is certainly exaggerated, but is clearly intended as a genre piece, yet if one can get through the seemingly unending stream of red corn syrup and the glossy help of technicolor, Hobo With A Shotgun is a thrill ride that will undoubtedly provide viewers with angst about the slow decay of Western civilization.

I could simply say that the title explains the entire film, because the film is more or less about a hobo ennacting justice with a shotgun.  Yet, there is a much larger plot that is well worth discussing.  The film begins with an unnamed hobo (Rutger Hauer) riding into a town on the rails of a train.  The town, once called Hope Town, is the center for all things depraved.  The hobo is aghast by the pure amounts of degradation occurring in the city, whether it be a filmmaker using his wealth to exploit the poor into demeaning themselves on film or the countless acts of rebellion enacted in the name of nothing.  The state of the town seems to be tied directly to the unchecked power of the wealthy Drake (Brian Downey) who along with this two sons Ivan (Nick Bateman) and Slick (Gregory Smith), act in a violent manner simply because they are without challenge.  While Drake is clearly in power, he outsources his actions to both Ivan and Slick, placing a heavy emphasis on his pride in Ivan.  The hobo has a run in with Slick at an arcade, in which Slick attempts to rape a young prostitute named Abby (Molly Dunsworth).  Enraged the hobo knocks over Slick and saves the girl completely ignorant to the status and power of Slick.  Grateful for the help Abby befriends the hobo, and with her help he is able to purchase a shotgun that provides him with power to counter the corrupt city.  The hobo is surprisingly successful in his actions making a name for himself as a super hero of sorts, while cleaning the city of scum.  Drake and his sons, however, loathe the actions of the hobo and make it a point to turn the city against him.   The hobo, despite overwhelming odds, confronts Drake and his cohorts known as The Plague in one final showdown, and when it appears as though he is to die, he is aided by Abby.  The hobo is given an opportunity to kill Drake only to be stopped at gunpoint by a group of police officers, who have to this point in the film been rather non-existent.  Realizing his death is inevitable he shoots Drake in the head, only to die in a storm of police gunfire.  The film then closes with Abby being invited to join The Plague as she is the only person to have successfully survived their onslaught.  The town is still in despair, but it appears as though the cleansing of the streets from the hands of Drake can assure some sort of decency in the future.

Hobo With A Shotgun mirrors a film like The Toxic Avenger rather nicely, in that it deals with a serious social problem in a very ridiculous way and makes no qualms about beating viewers over the head with its message.  The message is simple, those with power can exploit those without, and unless the powerless can unify together, the powerful will continue to rule with oppressive force.  Drake can control the city simply because he has the money, and those who are not easily persuaded by money can succumb to drugs.  This is clear when Slick uses cocaine to overpower a rival kid of relative wealth, causing the young man to become addicted and subsequently dependent on Slick as a source.  It also notes the problems of abject poverty and how nearly impossible it is to climb out of such a state.  The hobo simply desires to purchase a used lawnmower to begin his own business and survive.  Right as he is in the process of doing so he becomes stuck in the middle of a robbery which leads him to come into possession of a shotgun to stop the robber in his tracks.  Such a scene, amidst its violent nature, suggests that those in terrible situations often attempt to extradite themselves; however, those around them invariably influence them in negative ways.  Finally, the film posits the illogical nature of single person sacrifice.  The hobo tries desperately to avenge those who were degraded within Scum Town, but he never makes it clear that he is doing so for the entirity of humanity, in fact, in the epic scene in which he talks to a nursery full of babies, he makes it clear that the world will never change and that one must simply accept their task with a positive outlook, even if it means being a hobo who happens to wield a shotgun.  Though not sacrificial, it is clear that the hobo's death was not in vain, for he allowed other to realize that change is possible, but must be done so on a unified scale, for one man cannot perform the work of many.

Hobo With A Shotgun is a fun bit of film and a great piece of cinema to come from Canada.  It is exploitation filmmaking at its finest and well worth watching.  At the moment, it is on Netflix Watch Instantly and a quick flick that clocks in just under an hour and a half.

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