Only Jason Statham can keep us safe from a Cajun Invasion…
Upon completing a particularly messy case, recently widowed undercover DEA agent Phil Broker retires and moves with his daughter into a fixer upper home in a small town in Louisiana. After running afoul of some of the locals (of the yokel variety, of course), he soon finds himself defending his daughter, his home, and his cat from the local meth dealer, his goons, and even some leftovers from his former life.
Written by Sylvester Stallone (he’s a much more prolific writer than you think – look it up), Homefront is another entry in the long line of films revolving around a former bad ass trying to make a life for himself in a small town only to have his past catch up to him. It’s been done many times, and there aren’t too many surprises to be found here (other than the fact that it doesn’t star Sly himself), but it still happens to be a well made and entertaining way to kill 100 minutes.
For an action film starring Jason Statham, there is a surprising amount of restraint used when staging the various set pieces. In fact, unlike many of his more ridiculous (but fun) flicks, he almost comes across as a human like you or me (well, you). Other than perhaps a couple of overchoreographed moves here and there, most of the fight scenes are fairly plausible. There even seemed to be a genuine attempt to temper the action with an equal amount of storytelling. While the story being told is pretty predictable and not particularly memorable, the balance still goes a long way towards making the film ultimately pretty satisfying.
(Want to see Jason Statham in action? Watch his fight mashup here!)
As far as the acting goes, we’re given a lot more to appreciate here than a movie of this sort would typically carry. Statham has always seemed to be better than the material he is given, and that’s nothing new here. He has perfected quiet intensity and this movie seems to be a small step in the direction of making a movie in which he is not required to snap a bone. As local bad guy Gator, James Franco oozes slime and smarminess, despite not being particularly intimidating when faced with Statham. You can’t count this among his best performances, and it didn’t need to be, but when he’s having fun in a film like this, the audience do, too.
Supporting performances are equally strong, particularly Winona Ryder as Gator’s biker bar waitress girlfriend/co-conspirator, an almost unrecognizably de-glammed Kate Bosworth as a mother/addict whose young son, let’s face it, pretty much starts the whole ball rolling and ends up indirectly causing a lot of pain and death, and Omar Benson Miller providing some comic relief and wisdom as Broker’s slightly stereotypical voice of reason. The show is practically stolen, however, by newcomer Izabela Vidovic as the 9 – 10-year-old daughter (no need to demand fact checkers – she has a birthday within the film) who needs protecting (but, barely). She more than holds her own against the more experienced actors and even gets to show off a few of the fighting moves that she learned from her dear old dad and has a late-film dramatic scene that she handles skillfully.
There are several times that the audience will be asked to wear out their ability to suspend belief – a paper file that could quite possibly mean the death of Broker and his daughter is easily found in a box kept in a surprisingly simple place to find; a baddie from Broker’s new life just so happens to be connected to a baddie from Broker’s old life – but in a movie like this, you’ll easily forgive those. Also, there are a couple of plot points that were opened up, but never truly paid off – a possible romance between Broker and a teacher; Broker’s military background (the film’s ridiculously patriotic poster seems to suggest that perhaps more of this was contained in the original script, but was pretty much completely dropped in the final product); the effect of losing a spouse/mother (it’s touched on a bit in Vidovic’s aforementioned dramatic scene, but Statham doesn’t get much of a shot at it).
The opening sequence, while certainly necessary to the plot and exciting in its own right, was not particularly well shot when compared to the rest of the film and the editing of the opening couple of minutes was timed almost too ‘on the nose’ with the music, which brings you out of it for just a moment. The ending, too, and both of its final fights do seem to be a bit anti-climactic (one particularly vengeful villain never even gets his own shot at the good guy, leaving it up to Gator, and you can probably guess how a one on one fight between Jason Statham and James Franco is going to go), but it still wraps up pretty satisfyingly overall.
Jason’s Final Thoughts:
Please ignore the ridiculous comparisons between this and Breaking Bad (a fate that any film/tv show that features meth is sure to deal with for a while) – other than a couple of quick shots of a homemade meth lab, there’s really nothing here to connect the two. In fact, the meth itself plays virtually no part in the overall proceedings. Instead, we get a wholly predictable, but still entertaining and well-acted action/drama more in line with Billy Jack, Walking Tall, or 70’s/80’s era Charles Bronson.
Review by Jason Howard, Lead Entertainment Writer