Greasy Homefront a Southern-Fried Action Throwback
After a bust goes horribly wrong, one that horrifically coincides with the tragic death of his wife from cancer, former DEA special agent Phil Broker (Jason Statham) has retired to a quiet, secluded Louisiana township with his 10-year-old daughter Maddy (Izabela Vidovic) hoping to start over anew. But when a school bully tries to terrorize his little girl, by defending herself the youngster inadvertently starts sequence of events which will put both her and her father’s lives in mortal danger.
How? The kid’s crazed, meth-addicted mother Cassie (Kate Bosworth) just so happens to be the sister of the town’s resident drug lord Morgan ‘Gator’ Bodine (James Franco), and she wants him to exact a little vengeance upon Broker as punishment for his daughter’s perceived transgressions. But after the former cop sends a couple of his men to the hospital with maximum ease, Gator realizes the fish that’s swum into his once quiet pond might be bigger than anyone realizes. Putting two-and-two together he uncovers exactly who Broker is, and using his strung-out girlfriend Sheryl (Winona Ryder) as a go-between he’s going to deliver him to powerful criminal forces keenly interested in seeing the former lawman and his little girl dead.
Based on the book by Chuck Logan, with a script (apparently written eons ago) by none other than Sylvester Stallone, Homefront is the type of grungy, southern-fried thriller one imagines Burt Reynolds or Patrick Swayze would have loved to have called their own back during their respective action heydays. Comparisons to low rent bayou favorites like White Lightning, Gator, Road House and Next of Kin are obvious, while somewhat subtle similarities to Walter Hill’s Southern Comfort are more than apparent as well.
This isn’t a bad thing. As B-grade as all of those films might be, none of them are exactly painful to watch. They are dirty, nasty, freewheeling, pulpy amusement, and as silly and stupid as their respective plots might be they’re made with just enough style and acted with more than enough forceful machismo their shortcomings aren’t near as giant a problem as by all accounts they should have been.
Directed by Gary Fleder (Kiss the Girls, Runaway Jury), Homefront wears its retro celluloid heritage like a badge of honor, the film overflowing in genre clichés so ripe their smell can probably be ascertained three screening rooms down at one’s local multiplex. But Statham was born to play an unstoppable force of nature like Broker, while Bosworth and Ryder are getting so much gleefully anarchic mileage portraying their respective dimwitted, strung-out antagonists they’re both continually worthy of keeping an eye on. As for Franco, anyone who watched Spring Breakers knows he has no problem slumming into giddily greasy depths of psycho redneck depravity, his “Gator” Bodine as memorable a villain as any I’ve encountered in all of 2013.
It is pretty absurd, no surprise there, the film a dim and dank little thriller where the outcome is never in doubt and the only question is just how high the body count is going to rise by the time things come to their preordained conclusion. But Fleder doesn’t try to hide the fact that, no matter what is thrown his way, no matter what obstacle he has to stare down, nothing is going to stop Broker from exacting justice. His skills are lethal from the jump, and they never become less than that at any point throughout the story. He’s a brutal, inflexible force of nature, his only concern his little girl’s welfare, anyone attempting to change that fodder for his destructive talents.
None of which makes this a particularly great film, but as throwback genre efforts go Fleder and Stallone’s adaptation of the Logan novel is a heck of a lot of fun. Franco, in particular, is a hoot, and it’s nice to see a movie forgo an attempt to make its central bad guy more than he actually is, all of which adds an oddly relatable human element that makes this madness and mayhem almost plausible. For all its over familiarity, as much as it gaily wades in the shallow end of the cinematic intellectual gene pool, Homefront is far more entertaining than it has any right to be, and I don’t have a problem with that whatsoever.
– Review reprinted courtesy of the SGN in Seattle
Film Rating: 2½ (out of 4)