Cast: Jason Statham, James Franco, Winona Ryder, Kate Bosworth, Izabela Vidovic, Rachel Lefevre, Omar Benson Miller, Clancy Brown, Chuck Zito, and Frank Grillo
Written By: Sylvester Stallone (based on the novel by Chuck Logan)
Directed By: Gary Fleder
Homefront is the type of enjoyable B-movie we used to see more of back in the 80’s and 90’s when the action heroes whom graced the silver screen had super human strength, but weren’t actual superheroes. There’s a reason for the familiarity of this throwback actioner – Sylvester Stallone wrote the screenplay for Homefront years ago as a starring vehicle for himself but the script never got off the shelf until now, so the 67-year-old “thespian” hand-picked protégé Jason Statham to take over the part he had outgrown. Homefront is undemanding and diverting entertainment that you’ll most likely forget about as soon as you exit the theater, but it’s a fairly good time while it lasts.
The film opens with a botched drug sting as Statham’s Phil Broker, an undercover DEA agent, attempts to take down a gang of bikers operating a meth lab. The DEA manages to arrest gang leader Danny T. (Chuck Zito), but not without killing his son, a transgression which will put a bounty on Broker’s head. Broker retires to a small town in Louisiana with his young daughter Mandy (Izabela Vidovic) to live a quieter life, however there are still 90 minutes left in the film so obviously that won’t go as planned. After a confrontation at school between Mandy and a bully, the bully’s meth-addicted mother (played by an emaciated Kate Bosworth) tells her brother Gator (James Franco) to put a little fear in Broker’s heart. Suffice to say, Broker doesn’t scare easily. A convoluted course of events leads Gator, the local meth kingpin, to discover that the locked up Danny T. is out for revenge. Gator sees this as his opportunity to hire some of Danny’s men to take out Broker in exchange for a larger chunk of the drug trade.
The film piles on an unnecessary plethora of supporting characters, the most peculiar of which is a love interest for Broker played by Rachel Lefevre, in a subplot which has no resolution. The film also jumps from bad guy to bad guy before it’s ever clear that Gator will be the main antagonist, but of course we already know this because the character is played by James Franco and featured prominently on the poster. Winona Ryder (also looking quite anorexic) makes an appearance as Gator’s girlfriend who helps him with his scheme, she then leads us to Frank Grillo’s character, yet another villain arbitrarily thrown in. Then there’s a token black guy played by Omar Benson Miller as Broker’s best friend in what is a borderline insulting role, with his only purpose to spew catchphrases like “I hate rednecks.” Despite the contrivance of all of these characters and there function in moving the plot forward, this method does allow for some supplementary action sequences that would otherwise have been lacking. An altercation between Broker and five goons at a gas station stands out as a fight scene which is insignificant to the story, yet completely significant to our enjoyment.
Unfortunately, what prevents Homefront from being unabashed fun is that the film takes itself a bit too seriously, often opting for melodrama when a more tongue-in-cheek approach would have been preferred. Casting James Franco as the villain is inspired but his performance as Gator isn’t over-the-top enough. Anyone whose seen this year’s Spring Breakers in which Franco plays another one-named villain dubbed “Alien” will know just how amusing and bizarre it can be when the actor lets loose. The lack of eccentricity in Franco’s performance is a missed opportunity in offsetting the always stoic Statham.
Director Gary Fleder (Kiss the Girls, Runaway Jury) is a solid craftsman at delivering polished junk, giving the impression that he’s worthy of meatier scripts, but that only works to the film’s advantage. You more or less know what you’re getting into if you buy a ticket to see a Jason Statham movie and on that “front”, Homefront doesn’t disappoint. This is sleek, well-made schlock and if you’d like a break in between this season’s Oscar hopefuls full of substance, Homefront fits the bill.