In the movies, Jason Statham’s “thing” is getting into fistfights with dudes and sometimes shooting them. He’s not the only actor in Hollywood who specializes in this, of course, and he’s not the best, but he’s pretty good at it. What’s more, he’s reliable. Whatever else happens in this crazy, mixed-up world of ours, you can count on there being one or two movies a year where the entire plot is that some bad guys come after Jason Statham and he kills them.
The latest is Homefront, a thin, benign afterthought of a movie that gives Statham a daughter to protect and plenty of goons to injure, but not much else. He plays Phil Broker, a former DEA agent now keeping a low profile in tiny Rayville, Louisiana, where for sure a tough stranger with an English accent won’t stand out at all. He doesn’t want any trouble and is reluctant to fight, yet somehow wherever he goes there are people who want to fight him. You know how it is.
Trouble begins when his 10-year-old daughter, Maddy (Izabela Vidovic), defends herself against a bully at school, and the bully’s belligerent cracker parents demand restitution. The kid’s mother, Cassie (Kate Bosworth), a skinny meth addict, is particularly vocal about it, and she summons her low-life brother to threaten the Broker family.
This low-life brother is named Gator Bodine and he’s played by James Franco. I don’t know which of those facts excites me more. Gator Bodine is a dirty meth manufacturer who thinks nothing of barging into a competing drug den and kneecapping its operators, and at one point he summons a meth skank played by Winona Ryder for some vigorous, sleazy sex up against a car. In the course of his snooping around he learns about Phil Broker’s connection to the DEA, which makes Phil even more of a target than he was before. Things spiral out of control in the unnecessarily complicated manner of films like this, culminating in a showdown involving rednecks and bikers.
The director, Gary Fleder (Kiss the Girls, Runaway Jury), films the fight scenes so that they’re simultaneously perfunctory and hard to follow: generic, yet confusing. The screenplay was adapted by Sylvester Stallone from a Chuck Logan novel; it’s the first time Stallone has written a movie without also starring in it. Phil Broker, with his steely resolve, moral high ground, and deadly fists, is exactly the kind of character Stallone would have played 25 years ago, and as successors go, he could do a lot worse than Statham.
But despite a handful of amusing quirks, Homefront is a tedious and forgettable affair with laughable dialogue and a piteously weak story. It’s a waste of Franco, too. I mean, I enjoy a goofy James Franco performance as much as the next guy (unless the next guy is James Franco), but there is a limit to his usefulness. One thing you don’t want, for example, is for a movie’s climax to be centered on a man-to-man fight between Franco and, say, Jason Statham, because that fight is not going to be interesting or entertaining. I shouldn’t have to point this out.
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