The throwback action flick Homefront is at its finest when Jason Statham is pummeling bad guys with his fists. Unfortunately, that only amounts to about 7 minutes out of the movie's total 100. Even the other action setpieces -- the shootouts and car chases -- lack the same electricity as these hand-to-hand fight scenes. And perhaps predictably, the dramatic scenes in between the violence is fairly underwhelming as well. With an over-qualified cast who are all making the bold choice not to phone it in on this one, the main fault has to be laid at the feet of the indifferent direction by Gary Fleder (Things To Do In Denver When You're Dead, Runaway Jury) and the thin script by Oscar-nominated writer Sylvester Stallone.
Stallone adapted Chuck Logan's 2005 novel Homefront in hopes of making another vehicle for himself, maybe even another Rambo movie, before passing the script on to Statham. One can easily envision Cobra-era Stallone as the terse, macho Phil Broker, but Statham brings his own particular style of gruffness to the role. Broker is an ex-DEA agent who resigns after an undercover mission with some meth-selling bikers ends in an unnecessarily gruesome shootout. His wife has died, and he decides to move with his 11-year-old daughter Maddy (Izabela Vidovic) to Louisiana (a random choice one can only cynically presume is related to Louisiana's excellent film production tax incentives). Maddy is a chip off the old block, and when she kicks a bully in the face during recess, she inadvertently sets off a chain of events that lead to her father's enemies finding him.
You see, the mother of the bully, Cassie Klum (Kate Bosworth) is the sister of fledgling meth tycoon Gator Bodine (James Franco), and when that playground fight leads to a parking lot feud between the parents, Cassie asks her brother to get some goons to mess Broker up. In a bit of inconsistent characterization, Broker is supposedly trying to get away from his violent past, but he pretty much starts bashing any bozos that step up to him with little hesitation. So Broker easily dispatches Gator's goons, in a nicely orchestrated pulse-raising sequence, which leads Gator to do a little breaking and entering into Broker's house to find out about this new tough guy in town. In a painfully convenient turn of events, Gator happens upon a casefile that runs down Broker's biker mission. Gator corrals former biker groupie Sheryl (Winona Ryder) to use her connections to the gang that Broker snitched on to get them to murder their shared enemy.
Despite the seemingly convoluted nature of these relationships, the plot is painfully straightforward and unsurprising. It's all building to the anticlimactic showdown, where Broker has to deal with a bunch of bikers before saving his daughter and fighting the outmatched Gator. Franco and Statham have a strong adversarial chemistry, which makes an earlier scene where Broker quietly confronts Gator and Sheryl at a diner much more exciting to watch than the big, dumb finale.
In the pantheon of post-Expendables '80s-style action flicks, judged on a scale of Bullet to the Head (dull and stupid) to Escape Plan (surprisingly deft and entertaining), Homefront lies somewhere in the middle, near The Last Stand. The film is quite watchable, but it's not totally satisfying and it will probably be forgotten this time next year.
Homefront comes packaged with both a BD and a DVD version, with the same bonus features on each. Plus, there is a download code for iTunes or UV playback.
Universal once again delivers a top-notch A/V presentation. The AVC-encoded 1080p 2.40:1 image looks nearly perfect. No digital artifacts, no noticeable banding. The movie has a lot of night scenes, and the black levels are strong without obscuring any details within the frame. Skin tones are spot-on, and the colors have a pleasant, vibrant appearance.
The DTS-HA MA 5.1 audio does everything it should. You can feel every punch, every throw, every explosion. Granted, the movie isn't non-stop action, and the soundtrack handles the sedate moments well, with dialogue and atmosphere coming through nice and clear, and Mark Isham's score adding a little spice.
- Deleted Scenes (HD, 8:38) - One big chunk of excised scenes, mostly focused on Broker's relationship with his daughter Maddy. Considering that the father-daughter scenes that made it into the movie are pretty clunky, these were all cut for good reason.
- Standoff (HD, 2:41) - A flimsy EPK that is pretty much just the trailer, padded out with talking-head soundbites by stars Statham and Franco, writer Stallone, and director Fleder.
For a fella raised on '80s action movies of varying quality, there's a pleasing familiarity to Homefront's storytelling. That doesn't excuse its cookie-cutter script, and it doesn't excuse the wasting of a game, talented cast. Some of the action is exciting, so your mileage may vary. Rent It.
Justin Remer is a filmmaker, oddball musician, and frequent wearer of beards. Check out his random movie thoughts on Twitter: http://twitter.com/bottomofqueue