If there’s one man in the film industry who truly understands and supports the evolution of Jason Statham’s career, it’s Sylvester Stallone. Back in 2009, Statham already had two of his own cinematic franchises established, having just completed the second Crank film and had three Transporter movies under his belt, making him one of the few actors keeping the old-school action genre alive.
It was no surprise then, that Stallone hand picked him to co-star in The Expendables, in what always felt like a generational baton passing – not only had Sly recognised Statham’s work and dedication, but set him up with a franchise for life. Sure, The Expendables might cease production in the next few years either due to the lessening box office that most sequels suffer, or if Stallone pulls the plug, but it can be picked up again at any point in the future, even decades from now, when perhaps we’ll get Stath in charge supported by the likes of Gerard Butler, Dwayne Johnson and Vin Diesel.
With Homefront though, Stallone actually wrote the script for himself years ago, but on realising he was too old to play the role now, picked Statham to play his part, which is about as trusting and supportive as you can get. It’s a great part too, in a breathlessly tense and bloody action thriller that I loved from start to finish.
Homefront marks The Statham’s third film this year and is the strongest of the bunch. While Parker had its moments and a charismatic turn from our man, it suffered from a bloated mid-section and an unnecessary role for Jennifer Lopez. Hummingbird was strong in many ways, and the more dramatic role gave Statham a chance to remind people that he hadn’t always been an action star, but the bleak subject matter made it a film to be admired rather than loved.
Homefront, however, is a combination of the best parts from the aforementioned movies, blending some drama amidst the thrills, as well as some great comedic lines and superb action – it’s everything you could ask for from a Statham vehicle and a little bit more.
The film clocks in at a brisk 95 minutes, making for a lean piece of filmmaking. It helps sustain the tension perfectly, as once the explosive opening sets the story up, events escalate quickly for Statham’s character, Broker, and his daughter (a great performance by Izabela Vidovic) in a small southern town where feuds are still rife. The local meth heads, led by James Franco’s Gator, inevitably think it’s a good idea to employ their idiotic scare tactics on a man who we know has the ability to break them all in half, but the constant ebb and flow between the two factions makes for compelling viewing, as the film is constantly on the boil – their tactics grow increasingly more violent and so do his acts of retaliation. There’s always been an utterly gratifying thrill to be had from watching movies about an outsider dispensing his own justice in a small town, and Homefront is no exception.
Director Gary Fleder is no stranger to building tension, and it’s great to see his work back on the big screen after a decade spent working in television, since he was responsible for the rather good thrillers Kiss The Girls, Don’t Say A Word and Runaway Jury. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention his feature debut Things To Do In Denver When You’re Dead from back in 1995, which is a film I just love for its blend of wit, violence, memorable dialogue and a never-better cast – it could well be the greatest gangster movie you’ve never seen, so I can’t recommend it enough.
Again, Fleder is working with a great cast of character actors, with Franco, Winona Ryder (who doesn’t get as much screen time as you’d expect, but who also doesn’t seem to be ageing), Marcus Hester and a barely recognisable Kate Bosworth making for a far too convincing gang of red neck meth heads. Franco seems to have a lot of fun, and it somehow makes for strange viewing seeing him face off against Statham, as he’s physically outmatched, but it works, though, as Franco’s Gator gets in deeper and deeper over his head, his big fish complex becomes increasingly more apparent.
There’s also solid support in a smaller capacity from Frank Grillo as a psychopathic biker, Omar Benson Miller as Stath’s only real friend, the great Clancy Brown as the local sheriff and the rather stunning Rachelle Lefevre as his daughter’s teacher and potential love interest. Curiously, not much time is spent dwelling on the burgeoning relationship between her and The Stath, but like other aspects of the film, there seems to a lot of groundwork laid for a sequel, so hopefully if that’s the plan, her character will be further fleshed out, and it was refreshing that the conventional love interest cliché was side stepped.
This is a Jason Statham film though, so for the action junkies among us, I can also confirm that there is a steady stream of face breaking and some particularly bloody shoot outs, including not one, but two bodies shredded by bullets in a way that would make Paul Verhoeven proud. As you’d expect, the fight scenes are slickly choreographed and executed, made all the more exciting by the investment you develop in the characters and the glee from watching small-minded bullies having their behinds handed to them.
It’s great to see Stath continue on his upward trajectory, as the characters he plays continue to become increasingly more dimensional, stretching his range as an actor while allowing his physicality to shine through in a more understated, but no less effective manner. That said, I’m still desperate for a third Crank film.
Homefront knows exactly what kind of film it wants to be and at what points to plant its tongue firmly in its cheek, making for assured entertainment of the highest order with a great sense of humour (Statham with a kitten was something I didn’t expect to see, ever). It’s a lean, brutal and unrelentingly tense film, punctuated with outbursts of exciting action and a uniformly great cast, so comes highly recommended.
Homefront is out in UK cinemas on the 6th December.
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