THE IRONY of a film as seemingly simple as Hobo with a Shotgun is that it can't just be about a hobo with a shotgun. Based on a faux trailer created for the publicity blitz surrounding Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez's Grindhouse, Jason Eisener's Hobo joins the likes of Machete and The Devil's Rejects in the curious subgenre of movies that exist to pay homage to the exploitation flicks of yesteryear. Seemingly aware that he's a little late to the party, Eisener lays the gore on thick with a wink-wink sensibility that is both energizing and hollow, rendering his film little more than a feature-length exercise in grisly fan-service.

Plot-wise, Hobo is basically just Taxi Driver if you replaced '70s New York with an oversaturated, ambiguously '80s dystopia and Travis Bickle with a homeless Dutchman. Fresh from riding the rails, our titular hobo (played by the reliably awesome cult hero Rutger Hauer) arrives in a corrupt city run by rich sadist the Drake (Brian Downey) and his two skeezeball Tom Cruise-y sons. After befriending a hooker with a heart of gold (wooden newcomer Molly Dunsworth), Hauer vows to start cleaning up the town with his boomstick.

With those familiar wheels in motion, Eisener and screenwriter John Davies set about proving that their grindhouse homage is the nastiest of them all, giving postmodern winks to their audience along the way. You want senseless violence? How about a school bus full of children getting blowtorched? How about topless women beating a human piñata with razorblade-filled baseball bats? Hobo starts off exhilarating, but turns noxious and empty fast. Luckily for Eisener, exploitation is a forgiving genre: Nobody can complain that Hobo with a Shotgun doesn't deliver exactly what it promises.