I mentioned in my review of “Mud” earlier this year that the American South is a fascinating place – that’s still very true, don’t get me wrong. Though there is definitely a dark side to the swamps and bayous of that bit of America, I can’t quite agree that they’re as bad as they are in Gary Fleder’s “Homefront.” On the surface, this is your standard Jason Statham action fare- everything’s peaceful for our hero, someone comes in and breaks the peace, and a lot of fights and shootouts follow. Though for some reason, nothing really feels at home about this film in protecting what’s yours.
In the South…
Phil Broker (Jason Statham) is a DEA agent who moves to Louisiana with his young daughter Maddy (Izabela Vidovic) to settle down and be at peace for a change. Everything seems to be going well for the two until Maddy gets into a fight at school with a boy and this incurs the wrath of the boy’s mother, Cassie (Kate Bosworth). Cassie, unsatisfied with a simple apology, chooses to exact revenge on Maddy and her father and calls upon her brother, drug dealer Gator (James Franco), to take care of them, much to Gator’s annoyance and confusion. If you think this sounds like an overreaction it’s because that’s exactly what it is.
Statham VS Franco – Place Your Bets
Immediately, the first thing that doesn’t fit about this film are the actors – not all of them, but most. I’m a huge fan of both Statham and Franco but for the majority of the film I couldn’t shake the feeling that they were miscast and this made the film a little awkward to watch at times. We’ve seen Franco play villains in “Spider Man 3” and “Spring Breakers” but here, he seems so out of place that it’s hard to take him seriously as the crack-smoking, violent Gator. Statham is Statham: he’s quiet, reserved, but say the wrong thing and you’ll be racking up a hefty hospital fee for yourself because of him. The only other miscast role would be Winona Ryder who plays Gator’s girlfriend; though Ryder has had experience playing drug-addicted characters before, she feels out of place here as it seems like she tries to come off as being more tough than she really is. It becomes confusing to tell whether she’s fighting alongside Gator or is ultimately just one of his victims.
The biggest things that don’t fit are the plot and the direction. The film tries to paint Broker as a vulnerable man who just wants to put his violent life behind him. However, it’s almost as if after enough time has been spent developing his character’s soft side, the filmmakers take that as their cue to revert him back into a brutal beat-down machine. I don’t doubt Statham can play soft, damaged characters but here it just feels off, given that he’s preaching peace to his daughter in one scene and practicing war with some unruly undesirables in the other. There’s also a subplot involving a hinted-at romance between Broker and Maddy’s teacher but this doesn’t get developed and is just left hanging in one scene, never to be referred to again. The action, however, isn’t terrible, though, it’s not the best you’ll ever see; there are times where the cinematography ruins the scene but there are other times where there is enough tension and suspense that you’re thoroughly engaged.
What Did I Learn?
If there’s one thing I took away from this film, it was this: people like to hold grudges. Essentially the entire plot of the film revolves around grudges and people’s inability to let go of them. I almost feel as if the film was trying to send a message about how this is a bad thing but I’m almost sure this wasn’t the case. There’s one really nice scene in which the boy Maddy fought near the film’s start comes over to her birthday party and they play and have fun and I couldn’t help but think that the entire movie would have gone in a whole different direction if everyone was just that forgiving. But I guess that wouldn’t have made for an exciting action movie, after all.
“Homefront” is your standard, by-the-numbers action film. With a slow and somewhat confusing opening act followed by a misguided second act followed by a rushed and frantic third act, this disjointed action vehicle for Statham and Franco becomes as forgettable as their performances. Though Statham tries to flex his muscles at portraying softer characters, it eventually comes off as awkward and contradictory to many of his actions in the film. Though if you don’t mind seeing two equally menacing characters butt heads in the bayou, “Homefront” is for you.