At this time of year I traditionally take some time to reconsider some old favorite as I await the new season’s home release schedule after the usual autumnal horror fest and the holiday blockbusters. At this point what is needed is a pallet cleanser, something that defies the necessity for deep analytical consideration permitting me to just sit back and enjoy the flick. This is reminiscent of the kind of movies we watched long ago as our nascent love of cinema was beginning to be nurtured. Several genres are encompassed by this umbrella but the one that made it to the head of the queue this time utilizes a familiar them; a reasonable man pushed by circumstances beyond his control to responding with unreasonable reactions. There are two major categories fall under here; the regular man forced to action or the seasoned warrior trying to his violent past behind and embrace a peaceful existence. Neither scenario ever seems to unfold in the desired way. While that might be unfortunate for the protagonist it typically works out just fine for film buffs looking for some excitement. Now I’m not going to apply some form of halo effect on this movie just because it conjures up some memories of fun times as a kid. Admittedly the film is flawed from a technical standpoint but it delivered what I expected, a couple of hours of escapism. There are time when you desire a meaty novel with layer upon layer of hidden meaning and subtext. Then there are occasions when all that is required is a pulp paperback, comfortable in its familiarity devoid of hidden agenda; a means to put the world on hold for a few moments and give in to being entertained. ‘Homefront’ is precisely that kind of flick.
In most movies like this some form of prologue is necessary. Its purpose is to establish the circumstances for a highly trained and eminently affect law enforcement agent to turn his back on a career he loves. For Phil Broker (Jason Statham) that pivotal moment came during a particularly intense day on the job. Broker is s DEA agent working out of the New Orleans office. He is not the type that checks trunks and wheel wells at the border, his usual scope of activity it the apprehension of significant, high profile drug activity; the type always sounded by mercenary scale security and a myriad of automatic weapons. Broker’s life and those of his team depended on his exceptional expertise in tactics, weapons and close combat fighting. In short while walking through the proverbial valley of death he has no fear because he is the deadliest thing in that valley. While busting a biker gang responsible for a significant portion of the methamphetamine trafficking in the region. The bust soon goes wrong and gunfire erupts. During the commotion Broker shoots and kills a member of the gang. Broker was under cover deep in the gang making his involvement more than a federal agent busting a gang; he betrayed the motorcycle gang on a deeply personal level; killing a brother he lived beside for over two years. His cover blown and future undercover work impossible Broker decides it is about time to assume a low profile life away from trouble.
To further his plan for a peaceful existence Broker relocates to rural Rayville, Louisiana, hoping to make a new start. The most important incentive instigating the drastic change is his teen year old daughter Maddy (Izabela Vidovic). Everything appears to going according to plan until Maddy is victimized by the local school bully. The girl is a chip of the block and in s few well practiced moves has the bully on the ground crying. There is no one sitting in the audience that isn’t inwardly pleased at this but as we all know bullies like this are usually trained for such a position by his family. Case in point his mother, Cassie Bodine (Kate Bosworth). As it happens se is her brother, Morgan 'Gator' Bodine (James Franco), is an entrepreneurial kind of redneck with aspirations of great wealth. In keeping with the current trend of back woods drugs Gator is into cooking Meth. My first class in organic chemistry was when I was in my teens and there is a definite amount of finesse with any organic reaction. It is not a matter of following a set of instructions read from some note. It amazes me that these back woods cooks get produce a profitable yield with blowing up in a ball of fire more often than seen in the films. The real potential for explosions make the hillbilly meth lab a great plot point and very profitable for the special effects experts.
There is immediate fallout with Maddy humiliating the scion of the feared Bodine clan. Momma Cassie is bat guano crazy dropping more F-Bombs than the usual Martin Scorsese film. She’s out for blood; someone insulted her family. When the town lawman, Sheriff Keith Rodrigue (Clancy Brown) wearing pretty much the same uniform he was sporting in the new television show ‘Sleepy Hollow’ admonishes Broker giving him a warning asking him to apologize to the Bodines giving them a means to save face. A neighbor, Teedo (Omar Benson Miller) warns Broker that blood feuds down there are a way of life taken extremely seriously. Sure enough Gator is set on getting back even after the apology is offered and superficially accepted. Let’s face it, when a character is named gator and cooks meth reason is not going to be his strongest personality trait. Pushed on by his biker chick girlfriend, Sheryl Marie Mott (Winona Ryder), Gator concocts a plan of revenge aided by his friends. The cumulative chromosome of those buddies still comes in woefully shy of complete genome. When it is discovered Broker killed Bodine’s brother –in-law his plan takes on added dimension. Gator gets rid of the Fed who killed Cassie’s husband and turns the traitor giving him the gang’s help in distributing the large freezer full of meth he has. Consider the target was played by Jason Statham and the movie written by Sylvester Stallone you can be certain Broker is not the one to be worried. Gator et al are about to need some affordable health care and ‘final arrangements’ insurance.
The screenplay does have the distinct feel of loose pages that fell out of a fold of Stallone’s old movie scripts; he gathered up the loose pages, re-sorted them into a semblance of order and handed it to director Gary Fleder. This is the primary reason that the movie worked out as well as it did. Balancing off Stallone’s perchance for action flicks is balanced by the experience provided by Mr. Fleder. Most of his previous work in the central chair has been in character driven dramas. On television he worked on such shows as ‘October Road’ and ‘Life Unexpected’. In the movie side of directing he helmed thrillers including ‘Runaway Jury’, ‘Impostor’ and ‘Don't Say a Word. This talent behind the scenes was considerable but we cannot overlook the contribution on those in front of the camera. Statham is in a familiar part, the man that can kick butt instinctively but has a deep rooted sense of humanity. James Franco is a certifiable chameleon able to perfectly assume his character’s persona with a change in wardrobe and makeup. This film is especially adept at giving excellent actors an opportunity to assume parts that make then nearly unrecognizable. Ms Bosworth has undertaken a wide variety of parts but many consider her more of the protagonist that a fowl mouth embodiment of revenge. A similar observation holds for Ms Ryder. Her transformation was so complete both physically and in personality that I had to double check the credits. That is what an actor should aspire to; the complete transformation. Ultimately a predicable story told in a captivating way.