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‘Homefront’ offers great action scenes at the expense of plot

Staff Writer

Published: Monday, December 2, 2013

Updated: Monday, December 2, 2013 22:12

It’s really amazing how an actor’s presence can sometimes make or break not only a role, but a movie. Being produced and written by the once great but fading from glory Sylvester Stallone, we must assume that Homefront was at some point a starring vehicle for him. Lucky for us, Jason Statham became involved and saved the day. While Statham is by no means an Oscar worthy actor and is more often than not type casted, he excels as an action star. Statham doesn’t give too many monologues and speeches, but the actor is able to give a convincing screen presence and bring his characters to life solely with his demeanor and likeability. He may not have Dwayne Johnson’s acting ability, but he is certainly next to him as one of the great action stars of this generation. In “Homefront,” he even manages to “outact” big time names like James Franco, Winona Ryder and Kate Bosworth.

“Homefront” tells the story of former DEA agent Phil Broker. After a drug bust goes wrong leading to the imprisonment of a kingpin and his son’s death, Broker resigns and two years later finds himself widowed and raising his daughter alone in a quiet Southern small town looking for a fresh start. Unfortunately, his fresh start gets off on the wrong foot after his daughter beats up a bully in self-defense. The small town still seems to believe in Hatfield-McCoy-style feuds and one thing escalates to another, eventually leading to the involvement of the bully’s ruthless meth dealer uncle, Gator (James Franco). As the trailer promises, Gator breaks into his house and discovers he was once an undercover DEA agent, and as you can imagine, he doesn’t take too kindly to this. I won’t spoil the complex chain of events that leads up to the big finale, but when you see it you’ll find it rather predictable. “Homefront” may only be a few steps above your typical formulaic action film, but these steps matter. The supporting cast certainly delivers and brings us some good characters. This, combined with Statham’s likeability as a hero to root for, give us an entertaining action thriller.

Despite its predictability, the film is more or less well written. The only real problem I had was the presence of minor characters who do absolutely nothing for the film. We meet a corrupt sheriff played by veteran actor Clancy Brown who seems conflicted by everything, but the film does nothing to explain his presence.

“Homefront” reminds me that Stallone is a very good writer, but I almost wish he had directed it too. Director Gary Fleder seems to care about the film, its plot and its characters, but he doesn’t seem to be able to say all he wants to say. That is, if he is trying to say anything at all. The film crosses into “Straw Dog’s” territory, a personal favorite of mine, in terms of theme and plot. I found myself somewhat disappointed “Homefront” did not aspire to be as brave as “Straw Dogs.” However, I can’t fault the movie for only aiming to be an action thriller, as it does accomplish this.

Statham’s recent film “Parker” was an interesting achievement. While the plot was absurd and there was little character development or investment outside of Statham’s lead, the action was so well directed and realistic that I found myself truly believing the story. There was a sort of human emotion and realism present in the violence that you don’t see in too many action films. I was hoping “Homefront” would deliver the same because of Statham’s presence. It doesn’t, but there is enough action, thrills and character investment in the plot to overlook its flaws and enjoy it. It’s a very good action movie, but if you’d like more I’d recommend “Straw Dogs” or Statham’s often overlooked “Killer Elite.”

7.5/10 

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