11/26/2013

Review: 'Homefront', Starring Jason Statham and James Franco


James Franco played a creepy drug lord earlier this year in Spring Breakers to great effect. He has a very similar role in Homefront, though a lot of the creepiness is substituted for angry yelling. Sylvester Stallone writes a script that's aimed at cramming as many testosterone-fueled confrontations as possible without giving the film a backbone to hold it up when it falters.


Phil Broker (Jason Statham) is a DEA agent who quits after a drug ring bust doesn't end happily. That's the only reason given for Broker's "retirement" and it doesn't really make sense, but the script's by Sylvester Stallone, so apparently we're supposed to let it slide. 

Broker ends up in a very small town in Louisiana where everyone practically bullies him or his daughter Maddy (newcomer Izabela Vidovic). Honestly, everyone Statham comes across wants to either threaten him or beat him up. So much for small-town hospitality. 

Cassie Bodine (Kate Bosworth) is angry that her son gets taken down by Broker's daughter when the kid bullies her at school for no reason. Pissed off that no one's doing anything about it, she seeks help from her brother Gator (James Franco) to put some fear in Broker. Everything changes when Gator finds out that Broker is ex-DEA and he and his girlfriend Sheryl (Winona Ryder) plan a way to hand Broker over to the drug lord he took down on his last case so that Broker doesn't find out about Gator's own meth-cooking ways. 

The main cast is impressive, but the story is lacking. So why is that actors like Winona Ryder and Kate Bosworth are in this film? These are two talented women cast in a movie that undermines their talents as well as their presence. They're left as side characters who don't do anything for the movie as a whole and we're left sitting there wondering why the hell they're in this movie in the first place. 

Ryder looks great for her age, but her character tries to pass for a girl half her age in attitude and in representation. Bosworth's character is quick-tempered, but there's no real bite to her aggression, and beyond that there's really nowhere left for her character to grow.

Statham plays the usual kick-ass character that he's played in the past, though with a baseball hat on this time around. The main problem with the movie is that no one in it can go up against Statham and legitimately win. Everyone in the film gets their asses handed to them and not once do we fear for Statham's life because we know that he can take the person down. Franco isn't scary enough or physically equal to rise to the occasion. Even the final showdown is pretty anticlimactic. 

As mentioned earlier, Franco's character in Spring Breakers is much more appealing in terms of being the creepy drug dealer he should have probably been in in this film. In fairness, the story is weak and the script doesn't seem to want to give time to expand on the world its created. 

Instead, it jumps from point A to point B methodically and without any real backbone. There are hints to Statham and Rachelle Lefevre's characters becoming romantically involved. There are instances of character depth when Vidovic talks about the pain of missing her mother. In the end though, these things never amount to anything other than minutes of screen time.

While the story does lack and actors are underutilized, the action is fantastic. Director Gary Fleder puts more focus on the hand-to-hand combat instead of blowing things up, and it looks great. It's the only thing that's worth any merit in a film that's full of missed opportunities. And if you're a fan of Statham and Franco, Homefront is a movie best served on DVD.