D: Gary Fleder / 100m
Cast: Jason Statham, James Franco, Izabela Vidovic, Winona Ryder, Kate Bosworth, Marcus Hester, Clancy Brown, Rachelle Lefevre, Omar Benson Miller, Frank Grillo, Chuck Zito, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Austin Craig
Adapted by Sylvester Stallone from Chuck Logan’s novel of the same name – and once considered as the basis for a Rambo movie – Homefront finally makes it to the big screen with fellow Expendable Jason Statham in the lead role instead.
With its throwback style reminiscent of Seventies action movies such as Walking Tall, and Gator, Homefront settles into a familiar groove from the start, with undercover DEA agent Phil Broker (a badly bewigged Statham) having infiltrated drug dealing bikers The Outcasts. When an attempt to bust them goes wrong, it leaves Outcasts kingpin Danny T (Zito) swearing revenge on Broker and his family. Two years on and Broker has recently moved to the sleepy town of Rayville; in the meantime his wife has died and he’s left to bring up their nine year old daughter Maddy (Vidovic) all by himself. A playground altercation with bully Teddy Klum (Craig) – Maddy gives him a bloody nose – leads to Teddy’s mom Cassie (Bosworth) seeking revenge. She enlists the help of her brother, Gator (Franco), a local meth dealer. When Gator finds out about Broker’s past he decides to let the remaining Outcasts deal with him; using his girlfriend Sheryl (Ryder) as an intermediary, Gator works out a deal where the Outcasts will distribute his drugs nationally in exchange for Broker’s whereabouts.
With its surprisingly leisurely pace, Homefront is a formulaic and professional Hollywood action movie, competently made, with no surprises and reminiscent of every other stranger-comes-to-town movie you’ve ever seen. It allows Statham to stretch his acting muscles a little, sets up Franco as the baddest badass on the block only to renege on the deal two thirds in, puts Brown in uniform as the dishonest sheriff in Gator’s pocket (but does nothing more with it than that), gives Bosworth a chance to release her inner skank for a while, and sidelines Lefevre as Broker’s potential love interest at around the halfway mark. Stallone’s script is full of these undeveloped story lines, and character arcs that are either cut short or allowed to peter out, all in order to allow more time for the action beats and the extended section where the Outcasts are brought back in. It’s this part of the movie that is the most disappointing as the running time is padded out unnecessarily: Gator tells Sheryl to contact Danny T’s lawyer (Vince), Sheryl contacts him, he speaks to Danny T, Sheryl reports back to Gator, Sheryl meets Danny T’s lieutenant Cyrus (Grillo), and then the Outcasts travel to Rayville. It all takes way too long, and all to set up the final showdown between Broker, Gator and the bikers which ends up being a two-part affair (and poorly edited at that).
While it’s always good to see Statham kick ass – a fight at a gas station is probably the movie’s highlight – here he’s asked to be conflicted about his violent abilities. It’s not entirely successful, focusing as it does on the effect Broker’s activities have on Maddy. The problem is that Broker has taught Maddy self-defence already (that’s how she gives Teddy a bloody nose) and is really pleased with her for standing up for herself. And yet when he has to defend himself and Maddy witnesses it, she acts horrified and troubled. This raises the question of whether she knows what Broker did for a living (after all she’s old enough to know); it’s never referred to, though, and remains just another loose end in a movie that litters them like confetti.
The deficiencies of Stallone’s script aside, Homefront at least looks good, its Louisiana locations shot in that slightly rosy glow beloved of so many cinematographers (here Theo van de Sande), and Statham acquits himself well. Vidovic is captivating, Franco and Ryder do their best with roles too underwritten to care about, there’s too little screen time for Brown, and for once, the “black sidekick/friend/new acquaintance” (Miller) doesn’t get killed in the crossfire, but actually kills one of the bikers when they attack Broker’s home. The only real surprise is Bosworth, raging at the mouth, swearing like a motherf*cker, and fit to explode from the anger she has pent up inside her. Sadly, the script requires her to undergo a sea change, and this unfortunately robs her character of any further credibility, but for the first thirty minutes or so she steals the movie completely.
Rating: 5/10 – a misfire on so many levels, Homefront suffers from an unpolished script and lacklustre direction; technically solid with a couple of good fight scenes involving Statham (which you’d expect anyway), this never really matches up to its potential.