Jason Statham has become the king of the mid-range budget action flicks. He’s a better actor than Arnold and a better fighter than Sly (or, at least, capable of executing more complex choreography). With every movie, he shows a few more colors as his range continues to expand – a nastier edge here; a bit more vulnerability there. Homefront gives Statham fans the action they’ve come to expect and a slightly more complex story than usual.
Phil Broker (Statham) is former drug enforcement agent who, after a particularly nasty assignment undercover (as a member of a drug dealing biker gang), retires with his daughter to a seemingly idyllic small town in Louisiana. Except that it’s home to the egocentric Gator Bodine (James Franco), whose bullying nephew picks on the wrong victim when he tries to bully Broker’s daughter, Maddy (Isabela Vidovicù0. And, oh yeah, Gator is the local meth king.
Trouble starts when the young bully’s strung out tweaker mom (Kate Bosworth) insists that her brother take revenge on Broker. Before you know it, good ol’ boys are trying to lean on Broker and he’s not letting them. Through a series of odd connections, Gator brings a biker gang (yes, that biker gang) to town and things quickly get out of his control. In an effort to save his own butt, Gator kidnaps Maddy – much to the displeasure of his girlfriend (Winona Ryder).
Homefront was originally written by Sylvester Stallone as a possible finale to the Rambo saga. It was based on a novel by Chuck Logan and, as a result, is a bit more complex than the usual Statham vehicle. It’s also got a nastier edge, what with the possibility of danger for Maddy – though it doesn’t feel forced or gratuitous. The action sequences are more than competent and Statham shows his usual physical panache in executing them.
There a number of great supporting performances – Franco looks to be having a grand time; Ryder is effective as Gator’s white trash girlfriend; Clancy Brown is fine as the town’s laid back sheriff who isn’t actually corrupt – he just wants his sleepy little town to remain sleepy. Frank Grillo is especially menacing as the leader of the biker gang, Cyrus Hanks.
The big surprise is Bosworth. She nails the role of tweaker mom Cassie – her twitches and quick mood shifts (mostly from angry to angrier, but still managing to hint as the good mom she might once have been) feel completely natural. She might even have lost weight for the role – Cassie is gaunt and seems haunted.
The Broker home is on a very beautiful plot of land and the town (what we see of it) likes like the version small of town America that we all have in our mind’s eye.
Director Gary Fleder gives Homefront the kind of energy and mood we expect from an ‘80s action movie while keeping the pacing more in the 21st century. The result is darker edged fun than the usual Statham movie, but it makes for a solid evening’s entertainment.
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Photo courtesy of Open Road Films and VVS Films.