Homefront comes from the pen of Oscar Nominated writer Sylvester Stallone. You can re-read that sentence all you like it won’t make it any less true. For while Sly has made a name for himself as first an iconic and then a geriatric action star it’s worth remembering that for Rocky he was nominated for a Best Original Screenplay Oscar. Throw in star Jason Statham and Homefront has enough macho posturing, in theory, to put a steroids convention to shame.
Phil Broker (Statham) is a former undercover DEA agent who hung up his spurs after a bust involving a biker gang went wrong. Moving to a backwater Louisiana town Broker sets up home with his young daughter Maddy (Izabela Vidovic). But when Maddy gets into a fight at school it puts Broker on a collision course with a vindictive mother (Kate Bosworth) and her drug dealer brother Gator (James Franco). Things go from bad to worse when Gator figures out who Broker used to be and sees it as an opportunity to move up in the drug world with the help of his girl Sheryl (Winona Ryder).
Given its humid setting and redneck twangs Homefront has the potential to be a modern day Western; Statham as the former lawman looking for a place to settle down while the corruption of the town forces him back to his gun-slinging ways. The problem is it spends too long trying to build what is essentially a straightforward plot.
With The Stath involved the action is always punchy and violent but for a film dealing primarily in revenge there’s remarkably little action. Perhaps part of this is due to the meth industry aiming for all things Breaking Bad but Homefront doesn’t have the terror of that seminal TV show and as creepy as James Franco is, assuming another of his seedy roles akin to Spring Breakers, he’s no Walter White.
It wants to be a slow build revenge piece. It wants to be Straw Dogs or Southern Comfort but it never reaches either of those heights. Director Gary Fleder tries to inject enough visual flair to keep the interest peaked but in many ways only succeeds in highlighting the story’s missed opportunities. Seeing the muddy rivers and hidden meth labs it’s frustrating that more is not made of the locations, instead we’re restricted to Broker’s house and backyard with an occasional detour to a dive-bar.
Credit should be given to Mr. Stallone for not allowing the end to fall too far into predictable cliché but by then you may have lost interest. The first two acts are so plodding, after an all octane start, that it’s hard to feel anything less than tired by the humidity on offer.
There are some nice performances. Statham does what he does so well; the strong silent type with his gravel-voice that lends gravity to anything he says combined with his fists of fury that feel powerful enough to crack concrete. Franco continues his line of presumably artistic expression roles playing against type but manages to bring a level of humanity rarely seen in a villain of this nature. But the standouts are Ryder and Bosworth, both clearly reveling in playing sunken-eyed, redneck addicts. Bosworth in particular brings a brilliant vindictive quality to the role that is all the more powerful when she thaws towards Broker.
Like the weather in the film Homefront often feels a little bit hot under the collar and sticky. A commendable but ultimately failed attempt at a revenge thriller.