Film review: Homefront (15, 100 min)

Sylvester Stallone remains firmly behind the camera as screenwriter of this serpentine thriller based on the novel of the same name by Chuck Logan.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 6th December 2013, 6:00 am
Homefront: JASON STATHAM as Phil Broker, JAMES FRANCO as Morgan 'Gator' Bodine and WINONA RYDER as Sheryl Marie Mott
Homefront: JASON STATHAM as Phil Broker, JAMES FRANCO as Morgan 'Gator' Bodine and WINONA RYDER as Sheryl Marie Mott

He hands over leading man duties to his Expendables co-star Jason Statham and the London-born action man reciprocates with a typically muscular, brooding performance that requires him to single-handedly take down an army of gun-toting adversaries while protecting a little girl from harm.

Director Gary Fleder elevates the pulpy source material with assured action sequences and populates smaller roles with talented supporting cast, capable of bringing characters to life in a single scene. He is also blessed with an impressive child actor, Izabela Vidovic, whose emotionally wrought performance even manages to wring a few tears out of Statham.

Wonders will never cease.

Homefront opens in explosive fashion with a chaotic undercover police sting to bring down biker Danny T (Chuck Zito) and his criminal fraternity.

DEA agent Phil Broker (Jason Statham) is instrumental in the bust but Danny’s son is killed during the arrest.

“You’re dead,” promises the grief-stricken biker, “your kids are dead!”

Phil hands in his badge and moves to a quiet, close-knit community, where Danny T will never find him, with his cherubic daughter Maddy (Izabela Vidovic).

She is a chip off the old block and when bullying classmate Jimmy (Marcus Hester) taunts her in the playground, she retaliates by punching him.

This simple act of self-defence sparks a feud with the boy’s parents Jimmy (Marcus Hester) and Cassie (Kate Bosworth). They hire Cassie’s no good brother Gator (James Franco), who runs the local drug trafficking operation, to put Phil in his place.

So Gator breaks into the Broker family home, kidnaps a beloved pet and gathers evidence about Phil’s past as a DEA Agent.

Armed with this vital information, Gator uses his associate Sheryl (Winona Ryder) to make contact with Danny T and alert the biker to Phil’s whereabouts. Thus Danny’s T henchman Cyrus Hanks (Frank Grillo) and his goons arrive in town, armed to the teeth and ready to unleash hell.

Homefront is a capable, if unremarkable, yarn that plays to Statham’s strengths as a man of few monotone words and bone-crunching actions. He somersaults, punches and sprints through the set-pieces with aplomb, and growls dialogue to move the plot along from one well sign-posted twist to the next.

Franco and Ryder are poorly served by their flimsy roles but Bosworth certainly makes an impact as a trailer trash mom, who believes that family honour should be upheld by taking down your opponents.

“It’s old school in the feuding sense around here,” one of the residents summarises.

Indeed, much of Fleder’s film feels old-fashioned and slightly out-dated, like a project that has been sitting on a shelf for 20 years and only now, someone has decided to blow off the cobwebs and dust.

Thriller/Action. Jason Statham, James Franco, Izabela Vidovic, Kate Bosworth, Marcus Hester, Winona Ryder, Clancy Brown, Omar Benson Miller, Rachelle Lefevre, Frank Grillo, Austin Craig, Chuck Zito. Director: Gary Fleder.