Dir: Jason Eisener. Canada. 2011. 86mins


They talk about the reserve army of the unemployed. In Hobo With A Shotgun, Rutger Hauer is on armed active duty, facing an army of sadistic crooks by himself.

Director Eisener and screenwriter John Davies gorge their film with borrowings from 1970s horror and from Hauer’s own pictures.

Hobo began as an award winning trailer in 2007, so horror fans will be mobilised for the feature’s vision of Rutger Hauer’s brutal solo war in a city ravaged by crime and depravity. Hauer will put a strong international handle on marketing Jason Eisener’s directorial debut. The mix of gore and wit should give it a strong niche in home entertainment globally.

The title (another sure marketing asset) says it all in this clever send-up of heroism soaked in blood. Hobo (Hauer) hops off a train, limps into town pushing a shopping cart containing his few belongings, and panhandles for money to buy a lawnmower.

Hobo opts for a shotgun when he’s faced with a blitzkrieg from crime boss Drake (Brian Downey), who rules like impresario of violence with his two sons, Slick (Gregory Smith) and Ivan (Nick Bateman).

Cinematographer Karim Hussain shoots the blood-fest (outside Halifax, Nova Scotia) as if he’s surveying a battlefield in a war between psychopathic predators and the lone stubbled deadpan defender of the weak.

Much of action is in an arena-like town square ringed with balconies. The crooks also invade a hospital, which gives the grimacing Hobo the opportunity to address a roomful of newborn babies before the attack is unleashed. “I used to be just like you,” the homeless role model tells them momentously.  

True to form, Hauer knows how to play the mock-heroic for laughs. Downey, Smith and Bateman do the same with evil. 

Director Eisener and screenwriter John Davies gorge their film with borrowings from 1970s horror and from Hauer’s own pictures (The Blood Of Heroes, The Hitcher and Blind Fury).  They also infuse originality into the one-against-all tale by thinking outside the horror toolbox – among the examples are flame-throwing taken to new heights (or depths) and manhole-covers deployed as steel collars that seem inspired by the Inquisition. 

Their over-the-top imagination shouldn’t be a total surprise. Besides the Hobo trailer, Eisner and producer Rob Cotterill collaborated on the 2008 short Treevenge, a Christmas tree’s revenge on a family after being chopped down in what is presented as a massacre of a family of trees led by a Hauer-esqe logger.

Another standout in Hobo’s cast is Molly Dunsworth who battles Drake and his sons after losing a key appendage. It’s a tribute to the filmmakers’ imagination that she can still strike back with the same body part.    

Production companies: Rhombus Media, Whizbang Films, Yer Dead Productions

International Sales: TF1, www.tf1international.com

US Distributor: Magnet

Producers: Rob Cotterill, Niv Fichman, Frank Siracusa

Executive Producers, Mark Slone, Victor Loewy

Screenplay: John Davies

Cinematography: Karim Hussain

Production designer: Ewen Dickson

Main Cast: Rutger Hauer, Gregory Smith, Brian Downey, Nick Bateman, Robb Wells, Molly Dunsworth