18th Mar2014

‘Homefront’ Blu-ray Review

by Jack Kirby

Stars: James Franco, Jason Statham, Rachelle Lefevre, Winona Ryder, Kate Bosworth | Written by Sylvester Stallone | Directed by Gary Fleder

Homefront-cast

As regular readers will know, I always start reviews of Jason Statham films with a with an acknowledgment that regular readers will already know that I really like Jason Statham films, perhaps with a witty aside to the unlikelihood of my having regular readers. The man’s latest is Homefront, in which he stars as an ex-DEA agent trying to leave his old life behind and begin anew in rural Louisiana with his young daughter (Izabela Vidovic), where for reasons unknown, no one will ever question his blatantly British accent. Unfortunately, The Stathe runs afoul of Kate Bosworth and her unnecessarily rude and aggressive family because of his general badass-ery. Their falling out escalates to involve Bosworth’s meth-cooking brother James Franco, who is also fairly badass. And as everybody knows, when two badasses meet, there can be only one winner.

I was surprised to see Statham and Franco on the same cast list. Since breaking through on the Spider-Man films (and perhaps excluding Eat Pray Love), Franco has developed a habit of picking interesting projects, though an actioner with The Stathe seems a leftfield choice for him. Key to Statham’s impressively solid body of work is that he has identified a niche to carve out and has occupied it well. This niche generally comprises of low to mid budget action films, in which he plays anti-heroic types with strict moral codes, which don’t extend ‘not murdering’. Homefront largely fits this description though it seems clear to me that the film is an attempt to broaden Statham’s appeal to a slightly larger audience. As such, the film spends a lot of time demonstrating what a great guy Statham is through his devotion to his daughter.

There are shedloads of scenes of daddy-daughter bonding (sometimes on horseback) in which we’re told in no uncertain terms that Jason Statham is a good and sensitive man who deserves your respect and adoration, dammit. Which is fine, but the time the film takes to establish Statham as a good guy (as if there was any doubt) feels like overkill. Which is ironic, as Homefront could really have done with a bit more actual killing prior to the third act. As such, it seems to me unlikely to satisfy The Stathe’s legion of action cinema fans and the gritty violence that seasons the final act is unlikely to appeal to more pedestrian viewers lured by the presence of Franco. Or perhaps I’m doing the tastes of the average cinema-goer a disservice there and people are actually complex enough to be capable of enjoying different genres in different ways at the same time.

The meth-cooking plotline does feel like an unnecessarily obvious Breaking Bad reference. Obviously Breaking Bad didn’t invent cooking crystal meth, but Homefront’s appropriation of this practice as an outlet for villainy does feel rather flavour of the month. I’ve actually only started watching Breaking Bad between seeing the film and writing this review and this has only strengthened my impression that Homefront has blatantly nicked an element that works from some other drama.

That said, it does suit the backwoods, southern-fried setting of the film. Franco’s drawling no-good Gator veers slightly close to parody but generally is a strong presence on screen, as is Bosworth’s belligerent junkie. Unfortunately, the often brilliant Winona Ryder is largely wasted. Director Gary Fleder (who made the cheap and cheerful Gary Sinise-starring sci-fi romp Imposter, but is otherwise unknown to me) produces a couple of impressive sequences but otherwise fails to give the film a real sense of identity, feeling as it does like a very by-the-numbers action-drama.

Homefront isn’t a poor film, but asides from an above-average cast list, has little to mark it out. As you’d expect from The Stathe, the fight sequences are strong, but they come far too late in the film and the man’s dramatic skills aren’t strong enough to properly sustain the picture until the punches start flying. Ultimately, there’s too much nicey nicey and not enough smashie smashie.

Homefront is released on DVD and Blu-ray on March 31st, courtesy of Lionsgate.

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