Directed by: Gary Fleeer
Stars: Jason Statham, James Franco & Winona Ryder
Running time: 100 min
Phil Broker is a former DEA agent who has gone through a crisis after his action against a biker gang went horribly wrong and it cost the life of his boss’ son. He is recently widowed and is left with a 9-years-old daughter, Maddy. He decides to quit the turbulent and demanding life of thrill for Maddy’s sake and retires to a small town. His daughter fights off a boy who was bullying her at school and this sets in motion a round of events that end in his direct confrontation with the local Meth drug lord. His past history with the biker gang also enters the arena, making matters more complex. But he has a mission in his mind to protect his daughter and he is ready to pay any cost that it demands.
The Stath is one of the few no-holds-barred gruffed-up alpha-mate action stars who are becoming quite a rare commodity in hollywood these days; what with older actions stars (legends of the late 70s, 80s and early 90s)–at a point where they, are quite frankly, “getting too old for this sh@t” (using the famous words of Roger Murtaugh from Lethal Weapon). One of the biggest gigs for these ageing legends is big moneymaking franchise The Expendables. So it’s not surprising that Sylvestor Stallone–who wrote the screenplay based on Chuck Logan’s novel–passed on starring in this one and offered the part to his younger partner in crime, having both built up a healthy relationship due to The Expendables franchise. This is one of those kinds of movies that sit perfectly within the realm of action films that boomed a couple of decades back and are quite simply a dying breed in this day and age.
The first five-minutes of the film covers every cliché in the book; undercover cop working with biker gang; operation goes bad; villains fight their way out even though they are clearly outnumbered and surrounded by SWAT; hero takes out villains getaway by using another vehicle and it causes an inexplicable explosion; villain suffers inconsolable loss and vows revenge against the hero; hero walks away from his job, disillusioned with life and his work. However, it’s not something to get overly hung-up on, as this all happens before the opening credits even role, and the exposition is merely there to set-up the main bulk of the story, so this can be forgiven. Living in such a tech-based society, where the Internet in a general hub for pessimistic criticisms, allows for any Tom, Dick or Harry to espouse their own amateur critique on the action movie these days – and it ruins the fun. Back in the day, plot issues in an action movie were suspended in disbelief – for the sole purpose of the audience being entertained and enjoying the ride.
Jason Statham gives a very credible performance. He typically potrays the all- around tough guy with nothing much else to show, with a few exceptions such as The Bank Job and his more dramatic turn in Hummingburd. In Homefront, his character is a man with who simply wants to give his daughter the best life that is possible – despite his past endeavors working undercover, and that they are both still grieving the loss of his wife; the loss of her mother. These more dramatic parts of the film are a nice touch and handled well in the balance of other tensions that are brewing. Newcomer Izabela Vidovic gives a very good performance as Maddy (as there is a danger with this type of role becoming overly sentimental). Massive props to Statham on knowing his limits in the accent department–opting to stick with his normal accent–which is explained in the plot as a transatlantic move from Interpol, over to the States (implying he was sought after due to his credibility). One would only have to grab a sound bite from Cellular to realise that the best option for Statham is to stick at what he is good at; which is creating great action set pieces and participating in all his own stunts and choreographed fights.
The rest of cast is pretty solid with James Franco being a somewhat trepidatious and unpredictable character taking on bad-guy duties and succeeding in coming across as a threatening adversary. There are some points in the latter half of the film when his motives become questionable, and even he seems confused about how ominous the character is suppose to be, but this seems to be down to script issues which, at times, leave Franco exposed as an individual who is clearly confused about his character’s motives and intentions. There are some standout performances, including Frank Grillo’s (Captain America: The Winter Soldier) performance which was far too short-lived in which he played by far the most formidable character Cyrus Hanks. Kate Bosworth excelled as a redneck-tooting junkie with her small frame and greasy hair making her look almost unrecognisable. Unfortunately the weakest link in the cast was Winona Ryder as she seemed miscast in her role as she came across as totally unbelievable as an ex-biker chick.
Gary Fleder’s direction holds the whole movie together, as he has been given a condensed script from Stallone in which numerous story-arcs from the book have been introduced in the film, but only seem to serve as suspenseful red herrings. Consequently, there are a few important elements of the story arc which are left unexplained, especially towards the end which create a rather grated feeling; a feeling that some abridged moments have been passed off as insignificant, although they seem like pivotal plot devices in their execution at the beginning – so the lack of closure is disappointing.
For a film starring The Stath, it’s nice to see that he is branching out a little bit (but only to where his acting limits can take him). Homefront does a good job of defining these boundaries and Franco and Grillo’s performances are top notch (the only thing letting them down being the script). It’s not all action, but it offers plenty of thrills and dramatic elements preventing any pacing issues until the bare-knuckle fight scenes occur, and Statham gets to do his thing (thanks to Fleder holding back on shaky-cam editing, the fight scenes are handled with finesse). Despite some weak character development, Homefront is a great homage to the old-school action film that we have seen a dearth of throughout the years. It’s great that we still have legends of the genre like Stallone who is still producing these types of action movies. Homefront is up there with Statham’s best work.
3 out of 5 Nerds