Review: Jason Statham Barely Punches Up Excitement in 'Homefront'
by Jeremy Kirk
November 27, 2013
Homefront is the latest actioner for Jason Statham, the reigning champ of the action genre, but the role was intended for a former title-holder. Sylvester Stallone adapted the screenplay for himself, and if you're familiar with Sly's work when he puts pen to paper, you'll recognize Homefront for the '80s-style, eye-roller of excitement that it is. The movie is exciting, thanks in large part to a capable director, but that and Statham's charm aside, Homefront fumbles the ball far too many times on hackneyed dialogue, cringe-inducing drama, and a James Franco performance out of the golden era of action. And not in a good way.
Statham stars as Phil Broker, a former DEA agent who moves himself and his young daughter to a small community for some peace and quiet. After years of living dangerously and in secret, the single father just wants to ride horses with his little girl. That seems too much to ask for in these parts, apparently, as a misunderstanding at the daughter's school puts Broker and the girl in the sights of some of the community's more unlawful folk. Namely, Franco as a meth-cooking redneck named Gator, who ends up being not as interesting as his last character, Alien.
Those "folk" and the actors who inhabit them are where Homefront's most interesting qualities quickly reveal themselves. At the very least, they make up what pushes the film past being a typical, paint-by-numbers action flick. Stallone's screenplay, adapted from a novel by Chuck Logan, seems almost self-aware in its action nostalgia. At one point Clancy Brown as the local sheriff asks Statham if he's "former military" or "former special forces." Yeah, he knows what kind of movie he's in.
Whatever drama between Broker and his daughter may have been found in the source material, if any, has been stripped down in adaptation to the flimsiest of father/daughter relationships, not that Statham and newcomer Izabela Vidovic don't try their hardest to make it genuine. That's not what is important to Homefront. Broker protecting his daughter is. But the screenplay takes so long to pick up its momentum that you begin to forget you're watching an action movie starring Jason Statham entirely.
Fortunately, when Homefront does decide it wants to be a thrill-ride, we've got Gary Fleder (Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead and Kiss the Girls) at the helm to whip up the necessary excitement, bloody gunfights and high-octane chases included. The action comes in spurts and usually disappears just as quickly as it sprung up. That's not keeping it from being cleanly shot, effectively enthusiastic, and all-around badass. Just don't expect a lot of it.
Back to those "folk" for a moment. While Statham pushes the emotion out through his scowl and the charm out through his teeth, there's a whole slew of notable actors dirtying it up in Homefront. Winona Ryder and Kate Bosworth play the women in Gator's life, lover/partner and sister, and both can play mean with equal believability. They make such menacing sidekicks to Franco as the head villain, but it's just so unfortunate how his performance adds nothing to the film but comic relief. In the '80s and '90s, it was typical to see the head villain yucking it up, going completely over the top for the sake of creating a character you loved to hate. Franco aims for that here, but he never even comes close to being a worthwhile adversary to Statham or his fists.
Homefront pushes ever-forward like a clumsy bull in a cliche store. It doesn't pass by one that it doesn't decide to trample over. But the film does push forward, and despite the slow-burn that should be erupting much sooner, it's a perfectly watchable action flick thanks to Statham's performance and Fleder's charged direction. That's not a glowing endorsement, and given Statham's track record, one might expect more. The same can't be said for Stallone, though, who can't seem to draw excitement from any character not named Rambo or Rocky. Maybe he should have starred in Homefront.
Jeremy's Rating: 6 out of 10
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