I wasn’t expecting much from Homefront, which may be due to the tired, half-assed way these churn-and-burn actioners are made today, or because the plot seemed to be yet another Straw Dogs-esque rip-off. However, it actually works as a gnarly little red-neck thriller with your standard level of Jason Statham bad-assery as he faces off against James Franco as a low level meth dealer who announces himself saying, “My name is Gator Bodine!” It’s an introduction nearly worth the price of admission alone.
Written by Sylvester Stallone, based on the novel by Chuck Logan, Statham plays ex-DEA agent Phil Broker who’s moved to a small, unnamed Louisiana town with his ten-year-old daughter (Izabela Vidovic) in hopes of settling down peacefully. As the movie gods would have it, there’s some shady business going on in town, all of which goes against Broker’s ethical code not to mention the town seems to bring the fight to him.
Things immediately go bad when his daughter bloodies the nose of a young bully at school, a bully that just so happens to be the son of the meth-addicted sister (Kate Bosworth) of the town’s drug kingpin, the aforementioned Gator Bodine. She asks Gator to rough him up a bit, but Broker doesn’t take too kindly to red necks attempting to rough him up so he punches them with a gas hose nozzle and smashes their heads through car windows. Only natural I suppose.
Statham breaks ankles, arms, faces and a few people have to die, all in the name of protecting his family and stopping the bad guy. The combination of Stallone’s script, the blunt force ability of Statham, Franco as Gator and director Gary Fleder (Kiss the Girls) limiting any drawn out hand-to-hand fight scenes to a minimum, this is an action-thriller that moves quickly and does so without much down time. The cliched moments are here and there, but nothing the film dwells on or gets bogged down in. The point is clearly to tell an action story and so it does.
I’ve grown tired of watching people just trade punches, beating each other to a pulp only to have the hero win out in the end as we know they are going to anyway. Homefront doesn’t dwell in such formalities and thankfully so. Statham is a mud-stomping machine, but even better it’s not a film that’s overly gory or violent, there’s simply a violent job that needs to get done and it gets done.
The film carries a largely serious tone, but not without a minor sense of humor, most provided by a small side character played by the always reliable Omar Benson Miller. To that effect Winona Ryder is humorous, largely in her incompetency as Gator’s strung-out girlfriend, though most of the enjoyment is found in watching Statham open a can of whoop-ass all over this small town and in terms of trashy, B-level actioners, it brings the audience what they came to see.
Stallone originally adapted Homefront for the screen about ten years ago and in those terms it actually feels like a film he would have made about 30 years ago, or perhaps Road House-era Patrick Swayze. It has a ’70s-’80s feel to it with a ’90s sheen, played by today’s actors, and it works.
This isn’t to say Homefront is thematically deep or some diamond in the rough with modern day societal metaphors that will resonate years from now, thus making it a classic. But in terms of a good, kick-ass actioner, it delivers.