A Jason Statham led flick with James Franco as the primary villain, co-starring Winona Ryder and Kate Bosworth, and with a script from Sylvester Stallone — yes, that Sylvester Stallone — sounds intriguing. Not in the sense that it could be a quality film, the kind that will generate critical discussions, but it should at least be entertaining, even if unintentionally. Instead it’s a complete misfire, mostly due to Stallone’s heavy handed and too on-the-nose script, but also because there’s better films with Statham just beating up bad guys.
Homefront is more or less one long PSA about never underestimating Jason Statham or any character he supposedly inhabits. This time he’s named Phil Broker and he’s relocated to the childhood country home of his recently deceased wife, with his daughter Maddy (Izabela Vidovic) after retiring from the DEA. Unfortunately, he taught her self-defense and she defends herself a little too well against a school bully who’s meth head mother Cassie (Kate Bosworth — who seems to be going full method for the role) won’t see her family disrespected and whose brother Gator (James Franco) is a meth dealer who becomes involved in the familial spat. Of course, no retired, or even vacationing, Federal agent can escape their past, and this is especially true of Broker whose past becomes exposed to Gator, who then makes what was a family squabble into a war of gangster proportions.
It isn’t attempting to be anything but a slick action film from yesteryear, but Sly Stallone’s script is just too full of clunky dialogue and poorly executed exposition to let even the smaller cliches go unnoticed. Scenes of Statham retaliating against his country-folk neighbors hellbent on running him out of town segue into emotional buildups between him and his daughter, with a literal backdrop of swirling violins. The film doesn’t need to be tongue-in-cheek to make it work, but Stallone’s subpar script doesn’t mesh well with Gary Fleder’s oppressive direction. Fleder, who’s last effort was 2008’s The Express, is intent on creating the kind of action film that’s easily digestible but instead becomes a chore. At some point, everyone’s underestimation of Broker becomes too illogical even for a gang of backwoods drug dealers.
Statham never strays too far from his well established tough guy shtick, but no one really expects him too. Franco definitely has some fun as the inexplicably named Gator, but he’s never really used to his full advantage. Arguably the best actor in the entire film — Winona Ryder is his only competition in that department, but even she falls flat as his idiotic girlfriend — his scenes exude an element that the rest of the film is lacking. Whatever his public persona has become, he’s a talented actor and can say more with a glance than most can with dialogue. And therein lies the problem. He actually does create a depth that is otherwise missing because of Stallone’s burdensome dialogue. In someone else’s hands, this could have been a late night cable hit. Instead it’s DOA.
Rating: 2 out of 5