The first movie penned by Sylvester ‘Sly’ Stallone that he hasn’t acted in and featuring the possibility of Jason Statham beating up James Franco, there are lots of reasons to be excited about Gary Fleder’s Homefront (2013). Unfortunately, this formulaic retro action throwback doesn’t deliver on any front. All the B-movie tropes are plentifully applied, but none have the gleeful absurdity and guilty satisfaction of Stallone’s beat ’em ups or Statham’s own Crank cycle. The Stath’s stoicism has always been best served when it’s offset against hyperkinetic camera moves and equally ludicrous stunts, but Homefront comes up bone dry.
The plot comes straight from a Steven Seagal or Chuck Norris movie, with Statham playing Phil Broker, an ex-DEA agent by way of Interpol, who relocates to a backwater Louisiana town after a botched sting leaves his family in danger. Inevitably, his past catches up with him when his daughter (Izabela Vidovic) confronts a bullying classmate (Austin Craig) with Daddy’s brand of problem solving. That soon incurs the wrath of fatuously stereotyped Southern oiks including the bully’s trailer trash mother (Kate Bosworth) who sics her drug-brewing brother-in-law Gator (James Franco) and his biker chick girlfriend (Winona Ryder) to enact revenge. If you’re thinking that those three might not pose much of a problem to the Stath you’d be right.
And that’s where the problems arise for Homefront. Statham is just too incomparably hard: he disposes of methed-up Southern lowlifes with his hands behind his back (quite literally). This is not necessarily to the detriment of our fun – and what else are we here for, you may ask – but it does undercut the dramatic tension, which Fleder seems to value above all else. Stallone’s deep-fried screenplay, adapted from Chuck Logan’s crime novel, doesn’t help matters: it thickly lays on the salt (“Whatever you’re thinking, rethink it”) but is low on much-needed risibility.
Even the action scenes – the mettle of any Jason Statham film – cannot provide many conciliatory thrills. The opening set piece is an uncontrollable mess (memorable only for the Stath’s Hell’s Angel wig) while the choppily edited final shootout takes away from the scuzzy atmosphere of the surrounding bayou, nicely photographed by Theo Van de Sande. Along with Statham, this is one of Homefront’s most compelling aspects, but both are criminally undercooked by Fleder, who adds nothing new, or even moderately exciting, to a well-worn genre.
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