Jason Statham as Phil Broker
Izabela Vidovic as Maddy Broker
James Franco as Gator Bodine
Winona Ryder as Sheryl Motte
Rachelle Lefevre as Susan Hatch
Kate Bosworth as Cassie Klum
Clancy Brown as Teedo
Frank Grillo as Cyrus
Omar Benson Miller
Christa Campbell as Lydia
Nicole Andrews as Ms. Etherby
Directed by Gary Fleder
After a drug bust gone wrong, former DEA agent Phil Broker (Jason Statham) moves to a small Louisiana bayou town with his 10-year-old daughter Maddy (Izabela Vidovic), but when she gets into an altercation with a school bully, Broker finds himself in a feud with the boy’s family, which includes the boy’s uncle Gator Bodine (James Franco), a vicious local meth dealer who discovers information about Broker’s past he can use to improve his status in the drug trade.
The first thing you should know about the latest generic action thriller “Homefront” is that it’s written by Sylvester Stallone, who for whatever reason, decided to pass the movie onto his “Expendables” pal Jason Statham, bringing Gary Fleder out of “director’s jail” to helm it. What might not be as obvious watching “Homefront” is that it’s based on a book with the main location drastically changed, although knowing that at one point Stallone was hoping to turn this into the last chapter in the “Rambo” series does make a little more sense.
The opening scene involves a group of bikers being busted by the DEA thanks to their embedded mole, Statham’s Broker, who is almost unrecognizable and looking pretty ridiculous sporting long flowing locks, which ends up in a firefight that leaves the son of the operation’s kingpin dead. It’s pretty clear from this scene the filmmakers were going for something that fell somewhere between “Breaking Bad” and “Sons of Anarchy,” although it’s going to be some time before the purpose of this opening and its connection to the rest of the movie will make itself apparent.
We’re quickly relocated to a small bayou town in Southern Louisiana where Broker is now living with his young daughter, who one day takes down a bully who is harassing her on the playground. As it happens, the parents get involved and unfortunately for Broker, the boy’s mother is the most annoying junkie white trash Southern stereotype we’ve seen on screen in a long time, as embodied by a haggard-looking Kate Bosworth. She turns to her brother, a meth dealer who goes by the name “Gator,” to get revenge for their family’s humiliation, but things quickly get out of control when Gator sees an opportunity to hand Broker’s location to the vengeful kingpin we saw earlier.
I’m not one to knock Jason Statham, because he’s good at what he does, which is to create entertaining albeit one-dimensional action heroes that audiences can root for. Far too much of the first half of the movie tries way too hard to give Broker heart by showing scenes of him and his daughter, ones that are so saccharine that it gets dull very quickly. On top of that, Statham is clearly supposed to be playing an American, but his British accent seems to slip out enough to be distracting.
James Franco’s Gator starts out as another amusing wacked out character in the vein of rapper Alien from “Spring Breakers,” but as he starts gaining a conscience and realizing how far things have gotten out of control, Franco’s performance loses some of its luster and energy. It’s a shame since keeping the character’s unapologetic ruthlessness would have made him seem like more of a threat by the big ending.
There are a couple more pieces to the puzzle, most notably Winona Ryder as a stripper who helps Gator make connections to the biker’s meth network and underrated character actor Frank Grillo as Cyrus, an enforcer sent to take care of Booker, both good though neither doing much to elevate the weak material.
Once it gets into the action, it’s a pretty stereotypical Stathamesque action film with explosions, shootouts, car chases and when all else fails, a bit of Mixed Martial Arts. Watching Statham take out four or five assailants is always fun, but once the film eventually goes into “Straw Dogs” territory, it’s obvious that there aren’t many original ideas for this kind of film. Up until that point, it’s not even quite clear why the movie is called “Homefront,” because Broker’s military past is barely glossed over and never really discussed directly and the section of him defending his home feels like it makes up maybe 15 minutes of the plot, if that.
For the most part, this is lazy cookiecutter storytelling made worse by even lazier direction, with Fleder making numerous bad choices with the filming and editing – having sunlight shining directly into the camera for instance, odd cutaways to horses, and cutting between bright sunny daytime scenes and the darker scenes with Franco and the bad guys which is jarring to sit through.
All of that is made worse by an awful score full of canned and clichéd musical themes from Mark Isham, especially unforgiveable during the quieter moments that try to squeeze out every drop of emotion that Statham is incapable of delivering.
The Bottom Line:
At its best, “Homefront” is another dumb action movie with a couple of fun fight sequences, none of which make up for the weak cliché-filled story that tries too hard to be a serious drama without the writing, acting or direction to back it up.