Homefront (2013) / Action-Thriller
MPAA Rated: R for strong violence, pervasive language, drug content and brief sexuality
Running Time: 100 min.
Cast: Jason Statham, James Franco, Winona Ryder, Kate Bosworth, Izabella Vidovic, Clancy Brown, Rachelle Lefevre, Frank Grillo, Marcus Hester, Omar Benson Miller, Chuck Zio, Pruitt Taylor Vince
Director: Gary Fleder
Screenplay: Sylvester Stallone (based on the novel by Chuck Logan)
Review published November 30, 2013
Sylvester Stallone (Expendables 2, Rambo) very loosely adapts the book by Chuck Logan, though that's possibly the only thing of note in this routine story of a lone man having to defend himself against the bullies in his rural southern town, a la High Noon. Though even then, some might feel Stallone is merely revisiting his own First Blood formula, and it won't be much of a surprise to learn that this flick had originally been written years back as a possible final entry in the Rambo series.
Jason Statham (Redemption, Parker) stars as ex-undercover DEA agent Phil Broker, the outsider with a new identity who relocates to his deceased wife's small home town in Louisiana after a major drug bust reveals his true identity to the motorcycle-gang kingpin (Zito, Jimmy Hollywood) whose son ends up dead. Broker soon finds out that the 'feuding' mentality is still alive and well among the kinfolk here after his young daughter (Vidovic, Christmas Angel) stands up to a bully in school and knocks his block off. The bully's parents see their boy as the victim and confront Broker, only for them to also get put back in their place. The boy's shrewish, meth-head mother (Bosworth, 21) considers it an affront to their family reputation to be publicly embarrassed, twice, and enlists the assistance of her crazy meth-dealing brother, Gator Bodine (Franco, This is the End), to put the scare in Broker for good.
Along with its Rambo pedigree, Homefront definitely feels like a film that would have been par for the course as a release in the 1980s, when Stallone himself, along with Arnie, Chuck Norris, Van Damme, and the rest of the Expendables ilk, would all make films with this very basic formula. We cheer when the good guy gets to get bare-knuckled comeuppance on the growing number of sleazy bad guys in some very violent (but probably deserved) ways.
In addition to its overly familiar plot, Homefront runs its course in some predictable ways, and the leaden, by-the-numbers events of the film are too plodding for this relatively talented and appealing cast to overcome. Another mild knock -- though one can see that the young actress who plays Maddy Broker, Izabella Vidovic, has some acting chops in the harrowing scenes, her character suffers from being yet another case of "precocious Movie Kid" personality that marred so many post-Spielbergian films of the 1980s.
Statham plays the same guy he has been playing in various forms for over a decade, in which he goes nose to nose with a variety of dirt-bags to tell them to back off. They don't, then proceed to get the snot knocked out of them in a brutal, quick-cut action montage. Franco is surprisingly good as the film's only wild card, Gator, a jackal-like mix of cunning and cowardice that makes for a good foil for the stalwart Broker to contend with. And any film that can make Kate Bosworth, who plays the young bully's shrill, stringy, meth-addicted mother Cassie, look repugnant is at least doing something novel.
The somewhat jittery direction by film & TV journeyman Gary Fleder (Runaway Jury, Impostor) is fine and fits the material, it's just the material itself that keeps Homefront from being much more than a B-movie revenge flick dressed up with a good cast and nice cinematography (Theo van de Sande, Love and Honor). Fans of visceral and violent action flicks, and especially of actor Statham, will likely not mind, but there's not much in the 'new & interesting' department to think it has any crossover appeal beyond its ready-built audience who never tire of seeing fists and faces connect.
©2013 Vince Leo