The film opens with Statham's character, Phil Broker, working a drug bust as an undercover DEA agent. Armed with a hilariously terrible wig job, and some corny dialogue, Statham by all appearances looks to have walked into an R rated 80's action flick. A couple cracked skulls, a car chase scene, and one old style bloody shootout later and audience members are all warmed up for action before the opening credits roll. Then it hits you. That feeling of 'where have I seen this before'. That 80's cheese with a modern sensibility, but with an oddly uncommon R-rating. And right before you can put your finger on it a few words appear on the screen: "Screenplay by Sylvester Stallone". That's right, after that all there is left to do is sit back and except the Expendable style of entertainment because that what you're going to get.
The Sly screenplay credit may have caught me a bit by surprise, but this movie is still the standard Statham film I expected. The bad guys need an ass-kicking and the only person around to do it is good 'ol Jason Statham. That's pretty much Homefront in a nutshell (and arguably most of his other films as well). The only real difference that might set this popcorn flick apart from the rest of Statham's filmography is his over qualified co-stars and their surprising good performances. Them being James Franco as the local method druglord (Gator), Winona Ryder as Gator's tweaker girlfriend (Sheryl), and Kate Bosworth as his even tweakier (that's not a real word) meth addict sister, Cassie.
Nothing that you really need much more story going in but the gist of Homefront is Broker was an undercover DEA agent who, after a big bust, decided to retire early and move him and his 10 year old daughter to a quiet small town; away from all the drugs, violence and crime of city life. However the small town Broker chose for a safe life for his daughter just happens to be run by a rising meth kingpin, Gator. Queue the drugs, violence, and crime. The plot is about as standard as it comes for these types of films. You can see the beginning, middle, and end of the movie practically play out in the 2-3 minute trailer. That's not necessarily a bad thing because you get what you pay for.
Since the movie doesn't really have a physical treat to match up against Statham's character there is a lot riding on James Franco's Gator character to fill the villain role in other ways. Franco has moments of menace from time to time but always seems to fall back into a passive stoner grove when the women of the film share the screen with him. Ryder is good, and actually pulls off playing 10 years younger than she really is, but its Bosworth that is truly amazing here. Incredible really.
I know what you might be thinking; this idiot can't apply the proper adjectives when critiquing this actress's performance. She is in a nothing role, in a movie that will probably be forgotten in a few weeks, just how good could Bosworth actually be? Well she won't be nominated for any awards but as far as meth-heads and drug addicts go she looked and acted the part to perfection. From what I could tell Bosworth dropped a fair amount of weight to pull off the look of a long time user. Pair that with her overactive mannerisms, nervous ticks, and some ultra aggressive dialogue delivery she obviously put more effort into her performance than the film calls for. If Homefront was a different film and wasn't structured around Statham being a one man wrecking crew, Bosworth would have been one of the leads rather than just a great scene stealer.
I'll give the a bit of credit to Sly as there are a lot less of those clichéd coincidences that most action films tent to put their main characters into before a fight scene breaks out. Other than the film's finale, the action portions throughout the movie are relatively small as director Gary Fleder (Runway Jury, Kiss the Girls) tries to play it up as more of a thriller than an action movie. Sadly with all good people around Statham in this movie he just comes across as more of a blunt instrument style of a hero. As much as I would have enjoyed a little character depth behind Broker's punches I knew what kind of movie I was walking into so still I didn't walk out disappointed. Just have some expendable expectations and Homefront might do it for you.
Andrew Burns loves film and comics, and can be found writing about when those worlds converge. You can follow him on Twitter at @myAndrewBurns.