It’s somewhat fitting that, early on in Homefront, the platitude ‘Shoot for the moon, because even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars” can be seen on a wall, because it’s a fitting description for the latest Jason Statham vehicle. Homefront brings up ideas and themes, each worthy of deeper exploration than Sylvester Stallone’s (yes, that Sylvester Stallone) limited screenplay allows for. I mean, you could write a whole movie around what this movie uses for padding.
The film definitely improves as it goes on, and the action is satisfying, but there’s always the nagging sensation that what you’re seeing is the product of compromise upon compromise, resulting in an overall lesser product.
Director: Gary Fleder
Release Date: November 27, 2013
Homefront stars Jason Statham as former (Current? It’s not explained very well) DEA agent Phil Broker laying low in the Deep South after the last case he was on resulted in a bunch of agents shooting a guy who went for a gun. Somehow, this was too much for the man who had already shot about three bikers by that point. He’s moved to his late wife’s hometown in the hopes of being able to raise his daughter Maddy (played by Izabela Vidovic). But those hopes are shattered when Maddy beats up a schoolyard bully, leading to a direct chain of events that involves a meth empire. And I literally mean ‘direct chain of events’. This childish feud kicks off the entire film.
If that sounds preposterous, that’s because it is at first. It feels like a leftover aspect from the first draft: a placeholder to connect Statham and Franco. “So, how does Phil Broker get involved with Gator (Franco’s character) and his meth buddies?” “How about…Statham’s kid beats up Franco’s nephew, and then Franco’s sister asks him to give Statham and his kid a scare? Then, Franco stumbles upon Statham’s case files, just so happens to pick up the file from the beginning of the film, with the bikers, and — get this — he knows the bikers.” In all fairness, this is in the book on which Homefront is based, but that doesn’t make it any less silly. Thankfully, once all this nonsense is out of the way and the major conflict ready to go, the film’s plot settles down and becomes something a little more standard.
But, once the pieces introduced in the first act are pushed aside, the film did lose some of my interest. There’s real potential in some of these ideas, like the relationship between meth dealer Franco and his meth addict sister (played by Kate Bosworth) or how much Statham seems to enjoy violence. Sadly, these ideas are either not explored (like in the first case), or contradict themselves (in the second case). When Statham unleashes on these human punching bags, the dialogue and acting suggest that what he’s just done is reprehensible in some way. But director Gary Fleder’s camera depicts the action with a sort of glee that overpowers what the other aspects of the film are trying to accomplish.
So it’s a real shame that I can only praise the action on a purely superficial level. If you can look past the dissonance, there’s some really exciting and well-paced stuff here. It’s not an orgy of violence, thankfully. The opening sequence where Statham and the DEA bust a meth ring is abysmal, with no sense of geography, terible editing, and a nonexistent axis of action. In fact, everything right up to Statham walking away from the scene in disgust while his boss yells “Don’t you walk away from me!” had me worried. Thankfully, it gets better from there.
The cast is generally quite talented, with Vidovic’s Maddy a particular highlight. She comes off as too precocious in areas, but this girl has an otherwise bright future in acting. Statham is fine as always, but he’s trying to force a half-American accent here, and it could not be more distracting. I have yet to see an unentertaining James Franco performance, and happily this is no exception. He’s an entertaining villain, and his performance elevates what would be a stock baddie in the hands of an inferior actor. But there’s no one performance that stands out other than the above three, and you’ll be hard-pressed to remember anyone else minutes after walking out of the theater. Apparently Wynona Rider was in it?
That’s a pretty decent summary of Homefront, actually. So much of it just slips through the cracks, but what does stick is actually not half bad. There are so many cool ideas on display here that scream for a more thoughtful film. But there’s no use in wishing for what might have been. If you want to see Jason Statham beat some rednecks up, this certainly is a movie where he does that.