2013, R, 110 mins.
2013, R, 110 mins.
James Franco as Gator / Jason Statham as Phil Broker / Winona Ryder as Sheryl Mott / Rachelle Lefevre as Susan Hatch / Kate Bosworth as Cassie
Directed by Gary Fleder / Written by Sylvester Stallone / Based on the novel by Chuck Logan
The cheaply disposable HOMEFRONT is the kind of 1980’s B-grade/tough guy action flick that Sylvester Stallone would have, no doubt, starred in.
does not appear in front of the camera here, but he did pen the script to
the film, which is loosely appropriated from the novel of the same name by
Chuck Logan. Subbing in for
Stallone as the main star is the perpetually scowling and ice-cold stern
Jason Statham, who more than knows his way around action pictures such as
this. The problem with
HOMEFRONT is not so much its already proven and competent lead actor, but
rather with Stallone’s scripting, which comes off as tediously generic
and woefully predictable. The
film tries to appease fans of low rent and easily digestible grindhouse
fare, but it rarely generates the same sort of giddily enjoyably
tawdriness and pulse as those types of film.
You just gain an immediate sense, right from the get-go, that this
film is just going through the motions.
opens with a rather sloppily executed action sequence that borders on
being incoherent (more on the film’s style later).
In it we are introduced to an ex-military man turned undercover DEA
agent Phil Broker (Statham) and after his cover is blown while in a biker
gang, things go from bad to worse. The
leader of the gang is arrested, but his son is killed by Phil’s fellow
agents, which leads to the biker kingpin swearing vengeance against him, whom he holds chiefly responsible.
The film then flashfowards to Phil, now widowed with a ten-year-old
daughter, Maddy (Izabela Vidovic) and he has long since retired from
active duty. He has semi-secretly relocated to a quiet and cozy Louisiana
small town, where he hopes that both he and his daughter will be able to
spend their lives in relative peace and security.
Alas, Phil’s past always seems to haunt him.
predictably, he just can’t seem to find a manner of keeping far away
from trouble. He soon finds
himself in the crosshairs of a local mother (Kate Bosworth), whose son was
beaten up by Maddy…but in self-defense. The mother’s brother, Gator Bodine (an unintentionally
hilarious name, played by James Franco) is the local meth cooker and
dealer, and she quickly begs her sibling to put the scare into Phil and
his kid. Gator, through
burglarizing Phil’s house, manages to discover his past DEA life.
Realizing the blackmail potential that resides with him now, Gator and his ultra-sleazy girlfriend
Sheryl (Winona Ryder, six ways to Sunday miscast here) decide to make
contact with the biker gang member that Phil put away.
A hit on Phil and his kid is ordered, leaving Phil desperately
trying to find a way to defend himself and protect his daughter.
can certainly see the appeal of this material for Stallone, seeing as he
as, as previously inferred, stared in many films of a similar vain to
HOMEFRONT at the peak of his popularity in the 1980’s (the notion of a
ultra lethal military man having to come out of hiding to take out
the criminal scum that is threatening him is certainly not fresh or new
material here). To his
credit, Statham is an obvious good fit for this type of film, as he always manages to
bring a credible level of calm and steely-eyed bravado to just about every
action film he inhabits (granted, he’s essentially playing the same type
of stock character that he has played countless times before, just with minor
tweaks here and there). His
co-star throughout the film, Vidovic, has a nice understated naturalness
on camera and works well opposite of the beefy Statham, even though
she’s essentially reduced to an obligatory child-in-danger plot device.
HOMEFRONT’s scripting and direction really kind of betrays what modest
good things the film does contain. Stallone's
embellishment of the characters seems a bit bewildering at times,
especially with Gator, whom at one point is a semi-bumbling red neck with
impulse control issues, but then later is crafty and cunning enough to
find out Phil’s past as a DEA agent (you would also think that Phil
would keep files of his DEA missions more safely secure than in the
crawlspace of his house). The
female characters in the film are either one-note floozies or just
criminally underwritten, like that of Rachelle Lefevre’s school
psychologist that takes a liking to Phil, but then the screenplay kind of
ignores this subplot altogether. Bosworth
is good as her drug-addicted mother figure, but Winona Ryder playing a
similar kind of character in the film never once really comes off with any
level of authenticity. She
frequently screams and unleashes f-bomb riddled dialogue, but you never
feel like she’s truly immersing herself within the character.
film’s director, Gary Fleder, is yet another in a regrettably long list
of modern action filmmakers that only seems capable of shooting would-be
exhilarating sequences with shaky-cam histrionics and dizzying,
millisecond editing. The
opening section of the film chronicling Phil’s DEA bust is orchestrated
with such a bewildering level of incoherence that making tangible sense of
spatial relationships between everyone becomes an almost unendurable test
of will and focus. Everything
in it is just…a…blur…of sound and fury.
The action sequences that come later are not helmed with any
improved sense of clarity or precision, and the final climax of the
picture - pitting Phil against a squadron of biker goons (led by Frank
Grillo) - has its share of fun moments, but rarely feels suspenseful, seeing
as there is little doubt that Statham won’t mop the floor with just
about any adversary. It’s also too bad when the star’s stunning dexterity and
graceful martial arts moves are made indecipherable by Fleder’s spastic
I have not mentioned James Franco much in this review thus far, but rest assured he seems to be the only performer injecting a healthy dosage of wanton unpredictability into an otherwise predictable action picture. He appears to truly relish playing his methhead with a level of venomous menace and wild-eyed country bumpkin stupidity (even though I’m not really sure whether he’s playing it straight or for pure camp value). Yet, Gator never makes for an effective villain to physically match up against Statham’s hulking prowess, which makes their final confrontation highly anticlimactic. HOMEFRONT rarely manages to elevate itself above being a standard-ordered action hero cop versus ruthless rednecks action film. It’s passably entertaining, I guess, for those looking for easily forgettable action thrills, but for those with more discerning tastes, HOMEFRONT is a wasteful excursion into formulaic genre waters. Or, since the film is set in Louisiana, should I have said, swamp waters?