Tuesday, May 06, 2014
HOMEFRONT (Gary Fleder, 2013)
Two years after the bloody end of an undercover operation with a meth-cooking and distributing biker gang in HOMEFRONT, Phil Broker (Jason Statham) chooses the simple life in a small town. The widower Broker is now content to bide his time fixing up his house in Rayville, Louisiana and caring for his almost ten-year-old daughter Maddy (Izabela Vidovic). If he’s taught her anything, it’s how to protect herself, as she proves to a bully on the playground. The incident sparks a confrontation with the boy’s parents, Cassie (Kate Bosworth) and Jimmy Klum (Marcus Hester). Cassie provokes Jimmy into fighting Broker, who has no trouble beating him down. He considers the matter settled but is told that in this part of the country people hold on to grudges and perpetuate feuds.
Cassie has no intention of letting the situation go, so she asks her brother Gator Bodine (James Franco) to intervene. While snooping around Broker’s property Gator slashes a tire and steals a stuffed animal and pet cat before stumbling onto something Broker’s files. Learning that Broker is a former DEA agent is valuable for a guy running a meth operation out of his boat and trailer repair shop. More importantly, he discovers that Broker was involved in the case that saw Shreveport kingpin Danny T. (Chuck Zito) sent to prison and his son killed by law enforcement. With the help of his girlfriend Sheryl (Winona Ryder), Gator plans to share his knowledge of Broker’s whereabouts to the bikers so he can improve his business in the area.
Although HOMEFRONT follows a standard action thriller recipe, it cooks up like a gumbo made from basic cable dramas. Even if it’s not derivative of any one show in particular, it contains elements of BREAKING BAD, JUSTIFIED, and SONS OF ANARCHY. While the TV series have time to develop multiple storylines and well-populated worlds of characters, HOMEFRONT has to introduce and wrap up everything in the equivalent of two episodes’ time. Certainly it’s possible to tell this kind of story in a hundred minutes, but Sylvester Stallone, who adapted the screenplay from Chuck Logan’s novel, tosses in several plot points without making any of them stick. Broker’s possible romance with a school psychologist (Rachelle Lefevre) is among the inconsequential side stories delaying the big showdown.
If Stallone were younger, it’s easy to imagine him starring in HOMEFRONT himself. Nothing here seems tailored to Statham’s strengths as an action star. As just another ruthless and efficient killing machine he doesn’t get much of an opportunity to display his fighting skills. There’s little character work to do either, as Broker is a generically sketched hero with little backstory or motivation. He’s concerned for his daughter’s well-being and seems to think his colleagues used excessive force in the Shreveport incident, but otherwise little time or detail is provided to explore what makes him tick.
Franco’s presence as the primary villain offers hope that he might spice up an ordinary action picture. On the plus side, Gator conducts himself in a smarter manner than the usual antagonists in this sort of film. He has the potential to be like JUSTIFIED’s Boyd Crowder, a redneck with a devastating capacity for manipulation, but unfortunately Gator functions more as a middle man in HOMEFRONT’s conflict. If the role weren’t so bland, a bad guy with a gator tattooed the length of his right forearm could have made a perfect addition to Franco’s seemingly career-long performance art act. So it goes for the homogenized familiarity of HOMEFRONT.