By Richard Haridy
April 23, 2014
From Commando to Taken, if cinema has taught us anything, it’s to not mess with heroes’ daughters. It really does make them angry. Homefront is the type of film that gleefully indulges in that well worn cliché with an entertaining sincerity.
After a raid on a meth lab climaxes in a bloody shootout and undercover agent Phil Broker’s (Jason Statham) identity is revealed to the bad guys, Broker leaves the game and moves to a quiet town with his daughter. An innocent schoolyard fight propels Broker’s life into chaos as local meth kingpin Gator (James Franco) discovers his murky past.
Franco’s performance as Gator is bizarrely compelling. Unlike his work as Alien in Spring Breakers, here in Homefront we get no physical transformation. It’s just good old ‘shaggy beard, curly hair, stoner’ Franco, which makes it all the more amusingly jarring as he shifts persona from scene to scene like we’re watching an audition reel. One moment we get a redneck De Niro and the next it’s like he’s been taking notes from Justified‘s Walton Goggins. Even after watching the performance for 90 minutes I’m not sure whether it’s an extravagant success or an unqualified failure. The mystery of Franco persists.
Sylvester Stallone‘s screenplays feels like it slipped through a wormhole from the ’80s, thanks to its hammy set ups and corny tough-guy confrontations. At least Gary Fleder‘s workmanlike direction offers some sharp pacing. Homefront could easily be misinterpreted as an action movie parody if it weren’t so damn earnest.
You may have noticed I haven’t said much about Statham’s performance and that’s probably a good thing. When Statham is working well he’s like a magnificent void at the centre of the picture. About as memorable as a giant block of wood but also as functional, acting as sturdy foundation.
All I can really say is that when Broker stops to pat a kitten after MacGyvering up the bad guy’s meth-lab to explode when the lights are switched on, you will either groan or giggle. I suggest that if you are inclined towards the latter you may find quite a bit of enjoyment in Homefront.
Homefront is now available on Quickflix.