November 27, 2013

Homefront

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A movie review by James Berardinelli



Homefront

ACTION/THRILLER:

United States, 2013

U.S. Release Date:

2013-11-27

Running Length:

1:40

MPAA Classification:

R (Violence, Profanity, Sexual Content, Drugs)

Theatrical Aspect Ratio:

2.35:1

Cast:

Jason Statham, James Franco, Izabela Vidovic, Winona Ryder, Rachelle Lefevre, Kate Bosworth, Clancy Brown, Frank Grillo

Director:

Gary Fleder

Screenplay:

Sylvester Stallone, based on the novel by Chuck Logan

Cinematography:

Theo van de Sande

Music:

Mark Isham

U.S. Distributor:

Open Road Films

Subtitles:

none


There's something almost refreshing about a movie that delivers exactly what's expected of it. With a script developed by Sylvester Stallone and a cast led by Jason Statham, it wouldn't be hard to put together a checklist of obligatory scenes/moments/lines, and they're all there. Homefront does nothing surprising or remarkable, moves briskly, generates a moderate level of suspense, and doesn't overstay its welcome. It won't convert a single Statham-hater into a fan but neither will it alienate any of those who applaud the actor.

When Stallone initially adapted Chuck Logan's novel, he did so with the idea that he would star. However, the project languished and ended up being shelved. It regained life after Stallone and Statham discussed it during one of the Expendables shoots and this is the result. The film has a high enough profile cast to warrant theatrical distribution (as opposed to a direct-to-video route) but it's unlikely to be a big box office winner. There's an '80s vibe to the proceedings and, while some might consider that to be a plus, it hasn't proven popular in recent years. Outside of retro-action fans and Statham's base, there won't be much of an audience.

Homefront opens with a stock situation: an ex-military/ex-cop, Phil Broker (Jason Statham), recently widowed and with a ten-year old daughter, Maddy (Izabela Vidovic), relocates to rural Louisiana to start anew. He immediately runs into trouble with some aggressive locals, including the bitchy mother (Kate Bosworth) of a local bully. She asks her brother, Gator (James Franco), a meth cooker, to "scare" Phil, which sets off an unfortunate chain of events. Gator's sleazy biker girlfriend, Sheryl (Winona Ryder), makes contact with a drug kingpin Phil put behind bars and he orders a hit. All hell then breaks loose when the goons come for Phil and his daughter.

The movie features the requisite number of fights and shootouts and finds time for a car chase. The child in danger aspect of the scenario is manipulative (you know the girl isn't going to get hurt, just as her cat survives its ordeal) but it ups the ante. Statham is suitably heroic. The only thing missing is a really good one-liner. I'm sure Statham probably uttered one or two but I don't remember them.

Director Gary Fleder, who has been working primarily in TV for the past decade, knows what he wants from his cast and gets it. From Statham, that means a tough, loving father with steely eyes and an almost supernatural ability to shake off pain and injury. From Franco, it's a slightly unhinged sadist. From Ryder, it's something slutty and amoral. From Bosworth, it's a strung-out meth addict. The most appealing performance comes from young Izabela Vidovic. Although she isn't given much opportunity to develop her character, Maddy is likeable and competent.

Movies like Homefront don't lend themselves to lengthy or detailed analysis. They are what they are and represent a kind of comfort food for a certain demographic. Some people crave romantic comedies. Others delight in the spectacle of mindless blockbuster fare. Then there are the action fanatics, who enjoy a screenplay that follows a paint-by-numbers approach and doesn't deviate. The cinematic landscape is littered with analogs to this film. It's adequately made and delivers as expected. A few months from now, no one will remember it, but Homefront isn't made for the long-haul. It's assembled simply for the 100 minutes when the viewer is in theater and, on a certain level, that's sufficient.

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