Tuesday, February 06, 2018

"Homefront": review

I was inspired to pick up "Homefront," a 2013 action film directed by Gary Fleder and starring Jason Statham, because I had recently watched a schoolyard-bully scene from the movie on YouTube. Statham plays Phil Broker, a former DEA agent forced to lie low after his cover is blown during a drug bust. Relocating to a quiet backwater town in Louisiana with his daughter Maddy (precocious and talented Izabela Vidovic), Broker tries to live a quiet life, but some of the townspeople prove to be assholes: Maddy gets bullied at school, but because her father has trained her to defend herself, she puts the bully down with judicious blows to the face and gut. Broker's presence in the gossipy town causes people to take sides, and the antagonism between Broker and the bully's parents (Kate Bosworth in a memorable appearance as Cassie, the bully's perennially angry druggie mom) reaches a point where a local meth dealer named Gator (James Franco) gets involved. Gator sneaks into Broker's home, discovers his old files in the cellar, and realizes Broker is ex-DEA—very bad news for a drug peddler. Gator contacts Danny T, the currently imprisoned ringleader of a motorcycle gang who had been arrested in the drug bust in which Broker's cover was blown. Danny T sends a goon squad out to deal with Broker, and things get way out of hand.

Given the impressive stable of actors and the fact that this story was based on a novel, "Homefront" could have been so much more than it turned out to be. There were a million opportunities to develop characterization, none of which were taken. Instead, the movie followed a predictable, boilerplate, action-movie plot that could have only one outcome. I can't blame the actors for what are essentially storytelling problems; Statham has his own version of Clint Eastwood's shtick, and he's got that gravel-voiced delivery down pat. Little Izabela Vidovic proves to be a good enough child actress to avoid the usual pitfalls of being shrill and annoying. Kate Bosworth, whom I remember as the way-too-babyfaced Lois Lane in "Superman Returns," is surprisingly awesome as Cassie Klum, the angry, strung-out mother of a child who likes to bully smaller kids. James Franco does a decent job in his role as Gator the small-time meth dealer, but he did give me the impression that he didn't really want to be in this film, getting his scrawny ass kicked by Jason Statham. Clancy Brown—the Kurgan in "Highlander" and Surtur in "Thor: Ragnarok"—was a welcome sight as the possibly corrupt sheriff, but his character gets very little screen time after a few introductory scenes.

What's most frustrating about "Homefront" is that all these characters show hints of being far deeper than what we see. It would have been nice to delve into Sheriff Keith's background, to see his dirty connections with local gangs and so on. There were hints that little Maddy could have become friends with her bully, whom she invited to her birthday party. There were also indications that, even though Cassie had initially wanted Gator to scare Broker a bit as a way to get back at Broker for kicking her husband's ass, she had some humanity after all, and didn't want Gator to do anything more than give Broker a fright. There was a chance to see Cassie's henpecked husband Jimmy (Marcus Hester) become friends with Broker, but that never materialized, either. The net result was that the townspeople ended up looking like cartoon cutouts instead of real people, and Jason Statham's character was a Gary Stu of the first order, almost never losing a fight, and never suffering real tragedy. About that potential for tragedy: the movie could have been much darker and deeper had Broker ended up losing his daughter, or had the family cat ended up being brutally killed by Gator. Instead, the daughter was unscathed, and so was the cat. Oh, and before I forget: there was a possible romantic subplot for Broker that ended up going nowhere.

All in all, "Homefront" proved to be a master class in the "don'ts" of screenwriting. And who was the screenwriter for this movie? Why, it was Sylvester Stallone.


  1. I don't think I've ever seen the family cat being killed as a tragic element in a film. The family dog, sure--but nobody is going to slaughter a raft of bad guys over the family cat.

  2. Yeah—fuck those pussies!

    Okay, that came out wrong.

  3. There was a Stephen King movie about some kind of alien vampires who could be killed bu cat scratches. Lots of cats died in that movie.

    Stratham's accent in the movie bothered me. I just don't imagine there are that many Brits in the DEA.

  4. Brian,

    I was thinking the same thing. Had the same problem while watching "24," which featured a Brit or two working US counterterrorism.



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