Directed by: Gary Fleder
Premise: A DEA officer (Jason Statham) moves to a rural Louisiana town. His daughter (Izabela Vidovic) has an altercation with the school bully, whose family runs the local meth lab.
What Works: Homefront stars Jason Statham and its script was written by Sylvester Stallone, which would lead most viewers to believe it’s an action adventure spectacular. This movie isn’t that; instead, Homefront is a nuanced and thoughtful thriller. The moviemakers do a lot right and among the picture’s main strengths is the emphasis on the characters. Although the film has several roles that fit types which are familiar to this kind of picture most of the characters transcend the clichés. Jason Statham plays a DEA agent and father of a ten year old girl played by Izabela Vidovic. The relationship between father and daughter has a lot of nice bits to it and the easy rapport between Statham and Vidovic makes this one of Statham’s best performances. James Franco plays the owner of a local meth lab and Franco is also impressive. The character is a villain but he’s more than a mustache twirler and he has moments of humanity that make his acts of cruelty much more cold blooded. Franco’s character is partnered with a woman played by Winona Ryder and she displays a similar complexity; Ryder’s character treads in the world of the outlaw but she also tries to hold onto some sense of morality and integrity, and that conflict gives her character a lot more complexity than villains are usually given in a thriller like this. Homefront also includes Kate Bosworth and Marcus Hester as the parents of the school bully. Bosworth’s character is a drug addict while Hester plays her concerned but ineffectual husband and like other characters in this film they possess a lot of reality. The couple is also notable for the way they are able to rise above the typical white trash stereotype. Hollywood is typically unkind to rural characters and although Bosworth’s drug addict is not exactly role model material the film does allow her to grow as a character instead of pigeonhole her as a white trash stereotype. As a thriller, Homefront builds very well and it has a plot that is sufficiently complex while retaining its credibility. The film is also very well shot with a lot of the Louisiana settings used for maximum impact. Scenes of the bayou have a travelogue-like beauty while the rundown interiors successfully invoke the Southern Gothic.
What Doesn’t: Although Homefront is distinguished whenever it exceeds expectations, the film is somewhat disappointing when it falls back on familiar action movie tropes. The script was written by Sylvester Stallone and although he is a good (and often underrated) writer, he also stays very close to his own formula. Homefront ticks through the standard Stallone action movie checklist, as the hero is gradually pushed into a just rage in which retribution is earned. It’s a familiar filmmaking formula and although it’s done well enough, it is also overly familiar and never terribly gripping or surprising. There are some silly coincidences in the film, namely that an undercover DEA agent would store his case files, which include sensitive information about his undercover identities, in unsecured cardboard boxes in his basement. These kinds of coincidence are par for the course in action movie making but more disappointing is the lack of inventiveness in the action scenes. They suffice for the needs of the story and the action is refreshingly restrained compared to some of the outrageous set pieces of a lot of recent blockbuster films. But with the filmmakers going to impressive lengths to develop their characters and consider complicated moral scenarios, it is disappointing to see the movie end with a shootout and a car chase in which little is affirmed or won.
Bottom Line: Homefront is ultimately an average movie with some above average moments. It is certainly better than a lot of Jason Statham or Sylvester Stallone’s other pictures and it does manage to be sufficiently engaging and entertaining.
Episode: #468 (December 8, 2013)