Homefront Review

Retired DEA agent Jason Statham seeks a quiet life in Louisiana with his daughter but can’t help running into all kinds of trouble in this Sylvester Stallone-scripted thriller.

As Homefront opens, undercover DEA agent Phil Broker (Jason Statham) leads a bust of a meth-dealing biker gang that results in the death of the gang leader’s son. Dear old dad promises revenge as he’s hauled off to the cooler. Cut to a couple of years later, and Broker is retired, a widower, and attempting to live quietly in the small Louisiana town of Rayville with his 10-year-old daughter (Izabela Vidovic). But since this is a Jason Statham movie, scripted by Sylvester Stallone (from a novel by Chuck Logan), the quiet life lasts for about 10 minutes. Around that marker, Broker’s daughter fights back against an obnoxious little bully at her school, incurring the wrath of the kid’s mother (a frighteningly skinny Kate Bosworth) and drawing the interest of the local sheriff (Clancy Brown) to Broker himself when the latter takes on Bosworth’s useless husband. Bosworth, a meth-head herself, wants revenge and asks her brother Gator (James Franco) to handle the job. Gator is the local meth kingpin, and when he finds out Broker’s past, he immediately reaches out to that biker gang from the prologue, hatching a plan to both get Broker out of the way and expand his drug empire at the same time. I can’t say I’ve had a lot of patience with a number of Statham’s other action programmers, but Homefront kept me reasonably entertained. Make no mistake, the film won’t be part of the year-end discussion about Oscar contenders, and perhaps that is why it works to some degree. There’s no indication that anyone toiling on the film, including director Gary Fleder, thinks they’re making anything more than a middle-of-the-road crime thriller, but there are enough quirks to keep the thing relatively interesting.
 Chief among those quirks is the bizarre casting, which finds James Franco as the heavy in an odd performance that ranges from sleepy to Joker-esque. You’re never quite sure where Franco is coming from next, which is part of the charm of it. Joining him at the “over-the-top” end of the spectrum are the scarily intense Bosworth and Winona Ryder, the latter of whom plays Franco’s sort-of girlfriend and henchwoman, a former meth user herself who does everything but roll her eyes back in her head during her loopier moments. She provides some of the film’s comic relief, although whether it’s intentional or not is hard to say. Statham himself is stone-faced and steadfast throughout, occasionally flashing a charismatic smile but dialing down to what he probably surmises is a reflective, melancholy mode (he may have been concentrating too hard on his accent as well, none too successfully). For a while, the storyline takes an interesting tack as Broker does everything to avoid conflict, even making a thoroughly unnecessary apology at one point where none was needed. That all disappears halfway through the movie, however, along with the single and available school counselor (Rachelle Lefevre), who supplies a potential love interest before the shooting really starts. I imagine that most people will hear “starring Jason Statham, written by Sylvester Stallone” and think they’re in for wall-to-wall action or at least something tongue-in-cheek like The Expendables. But the truth is that there are only a handful of action scenes in the film, which Fleder does not do a great job with in terms of geography and coherency. Yet this is probably why I found Homefront fairly likable: I went in expecting something headache-inducing and instead was able to follow the plot and characters – as predictable as they are — without getting slammed over the head every five minutes.