Film Review: ‘Homefront’

Homefront Movie Review

Statham plus Stallone plus Franco equals a surprisingly joyless backwoods action programmer.

“It’s a bit like Appalachia: You can go from two kids in a fistfight to the emergency room real fast,” advises one concerned citizen in “Homefront,” a tale of backwoods retribution that resembles Roman Polanski’s “Carnage” transplanted to “Deliverance” country, where feuding parents prefer outright war to wars of words. But what sounds like a veritable B-movie wet dream — with that master of the subzero scowl, Jason Statham, starring in a screenplay written by Sylvester Stallone — turns out to be considerably less than the sum of its parts: a listless programmer in the “Walking Tall” mode, minus the ebullient spark of Statham’s “Crank” and “Transporter” franchises and Stallone’s own “Expendables” pics. Offered as Thanksgiving counter-programming by distrib Open Road, the pic may carve up modest biz with the shoot-your-own-turkey crowd, but should be available as a stocking stuffer by Christmas.

The ever-prolific Stallone (who has “Escape Plan” still in theaters and “Grudge Match” due at year’s end) adapted “Homefront” from a novel by crime writer Chuck Logan — one in a series featuring the character of ex-Minnesota cop Phil Broker — originally envisioning the project as a starring vehicle for himself before passing the torch to Statham, who ably fills the character’s ass-kicking shoes. When we first meet him, Broker is an undercover DEA agent (by way of Interpol, so as to allow for the actor’s Brit accent) about to snag a gang of meth-running Louisiana bikers, an op that ends with Broker’s cover (and several square blocks of Shreveport) blown sky-high, and the son of the gang honcho riddled with bullets. (In a wry play on Statham’s trademark shaven-headed appearance, the undercover Broker sports a long, straggly mane of ’80s-style rocker hair.)

We then flash forward two years to find Broker, now a widower and single dad, having hung up his badge (and wig) and relocated to sleepy Rayville, La., travel beyond state lines evidently prohibited by the movie’s tax-credit financing. But if Broker is a master of many elite skills, camouflage isn’t one of them — not in this good-ol’-boy bayou backwater, and especially not after 10-year-old chip-off-the-old-block Maddy (newcomer Izabela Vidovic) flattens a bully on the school playground. And things only get worse when an after-school parent conference with the offended Klum family ends with Broker giving the bully’s belligerent dad (Marcus Hester) a beatdown of his own.

That’s when mama Klum (Kate Bosworth) steps in and asks her brother, small-time meth dealer Gator (James Franco), for a favor: “Mess with their heads like you do everyone else.” And Franco, who’s had an even busier year than Stallone (acting in eight movies and directing three), gets a grand entrance here — taking a baseball bat to a house full of tweaked-out squatters — that raises one’s hopes for what this always-inventive actor might do with such a role. Soon, Gator is playing his menacing pranks on Broker’s homestead, but when he stumbles onto the ex-lawman’s true identity, he decides to up the ante. With a little help from his barmaid girlfriend (Winona Ryder), he reaches out to Broker’s old biker foe, Danny T (Chuck Zito), and proposes a trade: Broker’s whereabouts in exchange for access to Danny T’s statewide meth distribution network. And with the ineffectual local sheriff (Clancy Brown) on the take, it falls to Broker to fend for himself.

There are few if any pleasures in movies today as reliable as watching Statham lay waste to a succession of toothless in-breds and other unworthy suitors with a few swift punches and well-timed kicks — and “Homefront” offers no such shortage, including one particularly artful instance of death by pitchfork. But given the available elements here, the movie is a surprisingly joyless affair, lacking the grisly deadpan humor of Statham’s best vehicles or any real sense of peril. (Gator’s minions behave so stupidly that we never doubt Broker could dispense with all of them with both hands tied behind his back — which, in one scene, he actually does). Nor does director-for-hire Gary Fleder (“Runaway Jury,” “Don’t Say a Word”) help matters by making an incoherent jumble of most of the action scenes, reducing his prime asset — Statham — to a blur of quick cuts and swoosh pans, especially during the protracted, murkily lensed bayou climax. Rarely has one so pined for the stolid, point-and-shoot professionalism of J. Lee Thompson in his late-career Cannon Films/Charles Bronson period.

If Bosworth proves to be “Homefront’s” greatest surprise, sporting a meth addict’s wasted physique and a white-trash stridency that belies an inner canniness, Franco qualifies as its biggest disappointment. Though he brings a certain snarling menace to Gator, he never really sinks his teeth into the role (the way he did with his latter-day Big Bad Wolf character in Harmony Korine’s “Spring Breakers”), and whatever private amusement slumming it as a one-dimensional (and not very bright) baddie may have held for the actor, it’s lost on the audience. Mostly, Franco just seems to be biding his time here, bored with the part and the movie that contains it.

Film Review: 'Homefront'

Reviewed at Magno screening room, New York, Oct. 30, 2013. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 100 MIN.

Production

An Open Road Films release presented with Endgame Entertainment and Millennium Films. Produced by Kevin King-Templeton, Sylvester Stallone, John Thompson. Co-producer, Robert Ortiz. Executive producers, Avi Lerner, Trevor Short, Boaz Davidson, Mark Gill, James D. Stern, Douglas E. Hansen. Co-executive producer, Lonnie Ramati.

Crew

Directed by Gary Fleder. Screenplay, Sylvester Stallone, based on the novel by Chuck Logan. Camera (Fotokem color, widescreen), Theo Van De Sande; editor, Padraic McKinley; music, Mark Isham; music supervisor, Selena Arizanovic; production designer, Greg Berry; art director, A. Todd Holland; set decorator, Cindy La Jeunesse; set designers, Walter Schneider, Brian Waits; costume designer, Kelli Jones; sound (Dolby Digital), Jay Meagher; sound designer/supervising sound editor, Martyn Zub; re-recording mixers, Chris David, Gabriel J. Serrano; visual effects supervisor, Ajoy Mani; visual effects, Worldwide FX; stunt coordinator, Brad Martin; associate producer, Nicole Williams; assistant director, Steve Danton; second unit director, Brad Maryin; second unit camera, Duane “DC” Manwiller; casting, Barbara Fiorentino.

With

Jason Statham, James Franco, Winona Ryder, Kate Bosworth, Rachelle Lefevre, Frank Grillo, Clancy Brown, Izabela Vidovic, Marcus Hester, Chuck Zito.

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  1. Carcotas says:

    “Transporter” rocketed Statham’s name as a well rounded action star. Since then, most of his action films have felt the same, just with a different title. That was my mind set going into watch this film. “Homefront”, isn’t your usual Statham film, and it’s nice to see it play out the way it did. A change of pace for Statham movies, and hopefully a turning point for the actor. But let’s keep things simple: Story: Good Acting: Good Action: Very Good Pacing: Good If you’re looking for a good action film with a lot of heart, watch this. It’s not bad. More about Jason you can find it here :
    http://movieinfodb.com/en/people/976/Jason+Statham

  2. Bigmovie says:

    please

    don’t lie to people who are in need of information!!!
    This link to download or watch This movie.
    here http://goo.gl/gxrR3V
    download or watch so enjoy

  3. if you’re looking movie with joy, will not watching a comedy of action, donkey

  4. Sam says:

    I think people are being unreasonably unkind about this movie, and I don’t really understand it. This is an action movie, it does all the things an action movie is supposed to do (and with an added dose of humor for the audience as well) and it’s enjoyable enough. If you like highbrow foreign films, then no, of course you shouldn’t go to this movie. If you like rom-coms with Kate Hudson in them, no, probably not your type of movie. If you’re a complete movie snob, then no, you shouldn’t go see this again (what about the MOVIE POSTER ALONE even makes you think you might?) but if you like action movies and Sylvester Stallone, this is your kind of movie. For what it is, it is exactly what it’s supposed to be, and I don’t understand why people are being so hard on it for being exactly that. It’s like yelling at a special needs kid for being a special needs kid.
    If you like action movies, go see it.

    • MovieJay says:

      It does NOT do all the things an action movie is supposed to do, which is why I didn’t much like it. My cousin used to call movies like this “As if” movies. As if the guy leaves his door unlocked. As if the bad guy just happens upon the one DEA file from Statham’s past. As if the parents of the fat bully just happen to have connections to the Louisiana crime underworld. As if he can run into the bad guy’s garage and rig it like that so fast. As if the drug dealer doesn’t just off the guy for money instead of trying for a incoherent plan to pick up another customer by selling Statham’s file.

      Taken alone, every one of the bad people in this movie are stupid, so they throw 3 or 4 of them at us and for really stupid reasons. The first two-thirds kind of work, but the last half hour is as generic as generic gets. The fight scenes are forgettable.

      I’m sorry, but I’d like to be entertained without having to excuse so much stupidity.

  5. LOL says:

    Surely this has a lot to do with Millennium Films’ stable power in H’wood. They’ve bankrolled Stallone (Expendables), Franco (As I Lay Dying), Ryder (The Iceman) and Statham’s (Expendables) projects, and its core group of talent seems very willing to partner with them regardless of the cheap looking crap they put out. Even David Schwimmer is in bed with them.

    They have the power. They’re the Cannon Films of today.

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