Monday, July 21, 2014

"Homefront" (2013)

Starring Jason Statham, James Franco and Kate Bosworth
Written by Sylvester Stallone
Directed by Gary Fieder
Rated R - Violence, strong language, brief sexuality
Running Time: 100 Minutes

Former DEA agent Phil Broker (Jason Statham) and his daughter Maddy (Izabela Vidovic) move to a sleepy southern town in Louisiana following the death of Maddy's mother. Trouble starts soon enough, however, when Maddy beats up a young schoolyard bully. The boy's mother, Cassie (Kate Bosworth), decides she can't let this stand and gets her brother Gator (James Franco) to put the fear into Broker and Maddy.

Gator happens to be a small-time meth dealer looking to make it big. Broker's friend Tito (Omar Benson Miller) warns him about Gator and his family. Broker makes several attempts to patch things over with Cassie, which are ultimately successful.

But things go from bad to worse when Gator realizes that Broker helped put a biker named Danny T behind bars, and that Danny T blames Broker for his son's death. Through his girlfriend Sheryl (Winona Ryder), Gator sets up a deal for Danny T's boys to come kill Gator and Maddy.

Ah, yes, Jason Statham Movie #42. By now you know what to expect out of these films. "Homefront" manages to be memorable for a couple different reasons, but is ultimately just another Statham Thriller. The script, by action stalwart and Statham's "Expendables" co-star Sylvester Stallone, is full of cliches... but also haas a couple of interesting aspects.

First, I have to give some credit to Kate Bosworth. She might be the worst Lois Lane ever, but here she actually does some pretty good work. It's a dirty role, a bitchy role, and she kinda nails it. Her Cassie character is a bully herself at the beginning of the film, and a drug addict, and Bosworth does a respectable job. By the end of the movie, she's very nearly redeemed herself for the fact that all of this violence and death are essentially her fault - Gator has no interest in getting involved in her nonsense, but he does so because Cassie practically begs him. Things spiral out of control from there.

It's ultimately the cast that elevates the proceedings here, in general. All the performers are better than the material they're working with. It's surprising to say that Bosworth even outshines Winona Ryder in similar role. Clancy Brown plays the town Sheriff, who is really hoping to not have to do much work here. Frank Grillo is menacing as Cyrus, the biker sent to deal with Broker. Grillo is a character actor I think should be bigger than he is; I like that recently he's been getting roles in films like "Warrior" and "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" and he even headlined the sequel, "The Purge: Anarchy."

James Franco chews the scenery as Gator, the small-fish drug dealer who plays like he's a bigger fish. Gator's desires to make it to the big time are what ultimately lead him down a path he can't control. It's an interesting role for Franco, who seems to pride himself on taking as many widely varied projects as he can. Like Bosworth, he dirties himself up for this one, and the results are only limited by the script.

Problematic is Broker's friend Tito, you know, the Token Black Character who also happens to be very wise. Omar Benson Miller, like the others, does his best but this is easily the worst character in the entire film. He exists only to throw exposition at us, things that we're not even certain why or how he knows... other than a late revelation that he eats breakfast at the same diner as Gator. He's also pretty much the only black person in the entire film, annnnnd you know what that means, right?

So even though the performances are worthwhile, the problem with "Homefront" is that it rarely does anything new or interesting with the genre. The film feels kind of old fashioned in its premise and pacing. It owes a lot to the thrillers of the 80s and 90s, nor is it even the first time Statham has made a film like this. The script takes its time trying to build the bond between Broker and Maddy, to make us care for them as father and daughter and that's all well and good but the problem is that it comes at the expense of the badassery we all came into this film wanting.

When Statham does get to do some ass-kicking, it's first-rate. A brief fight at a gas station is the kind of brutal face-to-metal pounding we wanted, and the film's climax is full of cool bits as Broker takes on Cyrus and his goons and has his ultimate confrontation with Gator.

Thankfully, the script knows that Gator will never be a physical match for Broker, meaning that the final sequence is going to do something different. It's true to its characters, rather than suddenly making Gator a physical threat. This also gives the action in "Homefront" a little variety. Writer Stallone and director Fieder mix things up with fistfights, gunfights and car chases.

"Homefront" is another middle of the road thriller for Jason Statham's filmography. It has performances that elevate it above similar fare, but this one's pretty much a rental. I was hoping for more out of Stallone on this one, as I've enjoyed previous works he's written.

"Homefront" streams on Netflix for your viewing pleasure.

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