There’s something tantalizingly gratifying about watching Jason Statham beat thugs senseless. I can’t put my finger on it, but he brings a certain level of badassery that other genre actors can’t reach – a certain violent spark if you will. Sure, we’ve seen Jason time and time again in films like The Transporter, Crank, The Expendables, and Death Race, sporting one of the most robust henchman bodycounts in Hollywood – but I just can’t get enough of it.
Homefront is the latest movie to launch Statham into action, and while this bayou brawler doesn’t do anything astonishingly new, the simple pleasures of explosions, fist-fights, and bad accents make the watch an endurable one. I mean, how many times are you going to see Jason Statham fight James Franco?
DEA Agent Phil Broker (Jason Statham) is a top-notch asset to his team, but being so good at busting criminals also builds a negative rap in the underworld. After being involved in a major drug-bust where the gang’s hardened leader watched his son die, Phil starts to think about the safety of his own family, and decides to move into a sleepy Southern town to lay low. We catch up with Phil after his wife passes away, leaving just him and his daughter (Izabela Vidovic). As he soon realizes though, he can’t escape his drug-busting past. Local dealer Gator (James Franco) dose a little digging, discovers Phil’s previous profession, and decides that he can’t have a DEA agent around. Can Phil protect his daughter from the small-town “justice” that Gator intends to set in motion?
Homefront dances a dangerous line between overwhelmingly serious and hackily goofy, and I completely agree with fellow scribe Eric Walkuski who joked during a post movie conversation about how he wished this Statham adventure was made in the 80s. Between all the conflicting accents jumping around (British Statham, super-Southern Franco, all-American girl Vidovic), the film feels inherently comical, almost along the lines of something like Commando. The difference here is that the 80s knew how to make a cheesy action movie loads of fun, while today’s mainstream action blockbusters don’t have that same gleeful tone. Remember, Sylvester Stallone adapted Chuck Logan’s novel for this screenplay, so you’ve got one of the biggest 80s action stars telling the story, but director Gary Fleder appears to be on a different, more straight-laced page.
Tonal miscommunications aside, Jason Statham is still in top form. While I prefer him in more quick-witted, explosive roles like in Crank or Snatch, his stone cold intensity actually lets you believe he’s the unstoppable ass-kicker that’s portrayed on screen. It also helps that Izabela Vidovic turns in a solid performance as Phil Broker’s daughter, showing a ton of fire and spunk in the pint-sized counterpart to Statham’s protective fatherly instincts. Meanwhile, James Franco does his best to exploit small-town corruption by getting rid of Statham’s DEA character, playing yet another ridiculously left-field role. He does so with a spark of life though, offering a strangely unmatched yet satisfying adversary.
Remember how I said Homefront would have been much better as a comedy, though? Sylvester Stallone’s script surely knows how to insert action in as many places as possible, but there are certain plot moments that are flat-out laughable. I’ve never been to prison, but I’m pretty sure you can’t set up assassinations while having an obvious conversation with your lawyer. Not like any guards would hear it, or see the stolen files you’re showing off in full view. See, with a more comical tone, these moments can be ignored, but when looking at Homefront as a gritty, punchy thriller, these glaring blemishes are worth nothing but an eye-roll.
Homefront is your typical red, white, and blue-blooded action thriller – starring a British actor. It’s not like Statham sticks out like a sore thumb in this swampy city, but when everyone else is spouting “y’alls” and “boys,” it’s hard not to give an aesthetic chuckle. Don’t worry though, because there’s enough tension and excitement to guide audiences through another typical criminal romp, even if Fleder doesn’t really marry his directorial vision to Stallone’s less-than-serious story. Looks like Jason Statham saves the day in more ways than one.