Jason Statham is one of the best action stars around, but I can't help but think that he was born about 15, maybe 20 years too late. This is a guy meant for the 1980s and all its action excesses. He's one of the few legit action stars working today which can be a good and bad thing, depending on the movie. Typecast in a fair share of his movies, Statham gets a change of pace -- while still kicking some ass -- in this new release, 2013's Homefront.
A D.E.A. agent with a huge bust under his belt, Phil Broker (Statham) has retired of sorts, moving to a small town in Louisiana with his daughter, Maddy (Izabela Vidovic). His wife died in the past year, father and daughter trying to move on and handle the death together, supporting each other as much as they can. Their quiet, country/small town life is a refreshing change of pace for both, but Broker's past is going to come back to haunt him. A low-level meth dealer, Gator (James Franco), discovers Broker's true identity and background, realizing he stands to better himself in a big way if he can turn the DEA agent over to some willing enemies. Trying to adjust in the small, country town, Broker senses things going the wrong way, knowing his life, and more importantly, his daughter's life, is at risk. Can he get out in front of the new threat before it claims him?
You know what? Screw it. I'll say it. I liked this one. I liked it a lot. This Statham-fueled action story from director Gary Fleder was a lot of fun if not a particularly taxing or original flick. Above all else though, it was a lot of fun. 'Homefront' reminded me a lot of some pretty good 1970s crime thrillers meet kinda low-brow action flicks. I mean that in the nicest sense, I love those type of straightforward, entertaining B-movies. Statham is very good in the lead role, but you could easily see Charles Bronson, Burt Reynolds or Clint Eastwood playing the part. It's got touches of Southern Comfort, Deliverance, White Lightning, even some Smokey and the Bandit, and it's the better for it. Composer Mark Isham's score is solid too, a nice blend of some familiar action with a mood-setting, here comes trouble Cajun-themed softer portions. It won't rewrite the genre, and no doubt it's gonna take some hits from the critics, but I enjoyed it.
Watching this flick at an advanced screening with a pretty full house last week, there was an audible groan when the credits rolled by and it said 'Screenplay by Sylvester Stallone.' (based off a novel by author Chuck Logan). Was it a surprised 'Oh, I didn't know Stallone wrote this...." or was it 'Oh, Stallone wrote it....' sentiment? I think a little of both, but I like Stallone as a writer. It's nothing award-winning, but the man writes a good script from Rocky and its sequels to the more action-oriented Rambo and Expendables series. If it is written in broad strokes, so be it. Good guys = perfect good guys. Bad guys = stereotypically over the top, truly evil bad guys. Good is good and the bad are real bad. Basically, don't mess with a former D.E.A. agent's daughter or his daughter's cute cat. You...Will....Pay. Yes, the story depended a little too much on coincidence for my liking, a couple things happening because the story needs it to, not because those things actually make sense.
Blah blah blah at this point, I haven't talked yet about Jason Statham punching, kicking and generally beating the crap out of people. That's never really in question, even his bad movies entertaining to a point because Statham is just legit a really good action star. He more than handles his own here, dispatching nameless, brooding thugs as needed. For the most part, his Broker is trying to go straight, start a new life with his daughter in an isolated country town in backwoods Louisiana. Naturally because the movie has to have something going on, that new life ain't so smooth. The always capable Statham ends up fighting local thugs, Franco's Gator, and eventually, a drug-dealing, badass biker gang. The finale has Broker defending his house -- in the dead of night of course -- as the biker gang, headed by the always reliably creepy Frank Grillo (playing a biker hitman) tries to take him out before he can cause anymore trouble. Hand-to-hand, gunfights, improvised weaponry, it features a little bit of all of the above.
Beyond the typical shoot 'em up, punch 'em up, Stallone's script gives some familiar if pretty decent character development, Idovic doing a fine job as Broker's 10-year old daughter, Maddy. Their scenes together are pretty good, a single father and his daughter both coping with the recent death of his wife and her mother. Franco looks to be enjoying himself as the villainous Gator (no explanation provided), but thankfully doesn't ham it up too much -- cough Spring Breakers cough -- as the poop hits the fan. Winona Ryder grunges it up as a former biker groupie working with Gator, Kate Bosworth plays Gator's drug-addicted, trouble-seeking sister, and Rachelle Lefevre plays one of the teachers at Maddy's school who may/may not like Phil (SPOILERS ALERT she totally does). Also look for Clancy Brown as a possibly corrupt town mayor, Omar Benson Miller as Tito, Broker's construction friend in town, and Marcus Hester as Bosworth's much-abused husband.
No point in analyzing this one too much. At 100 minutes long, it isn't around long enough to overstay its welcome. Statham is as reliable as ever, Franco plays against type as an out-and-out villain, the supporting ast is good, and there's never too long in between some action, whether it be hand to hand or gunfights. Solid, entertaining flick.
Homefront (2013): ***/****