Homefront review: ridiculous yet predictable yet kinda fun

Homefront yellow light Jason Statham Izabela Vidovic

MaryAnn’s quick take…
Jason Statham teams up with another badass little girl… which makes him almost warm and charming as he kicks the crap out of villains.
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing
I’m “biast” (con): have not been the biggest Jason Statham fan
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

Hey! Jason Statham finally found a thing that works! Well, okay, a thing that finally works for me. Lots of folks seem just fine with the badass martial-arts machine he typically portrays… if that’s even the word for simply transferring his stuntman workouts to the big screen. For me, that’s so completely uninteresting, and so very cold, and I was starting to wonder if he had anything else to offer.

But he’s trying. With a decent script — not that this wholly qualifies, but more on that in a moment — he’s got something. With the right costar, he can be downright warm and charming. Weirdly and wonderfully, it appears to be transpiring that that right costar is a kickass little girl. Once — as with the remarkable Safe (which was remarkable for reasons beyond the Stath Redemption) — might have been an anomaly. But now it’s twice, with Homefront. One more flick in which he gets teamed up with a tough 10-year-old girl, and it’ll officially be a trend, and perhaps the best thing that ever happened to Statham as an actor.

Please don’t be misled. Homefront, despite the title, is not a heartwarming Lifetime melodrama. It’s a wildly ridiculous action flick in which Statham’s (Redemption, Fast & Furious 6) Phil Broker is both a former Interpol cop and a former DEA agent (I guess that could happen) now living in Middle of Nowhere, Louisiana, alone with his preteen daughter, Maddy (Izabela Vidovic, who is seriously awesome and I want to be just like her when I grow up), since his wife died. Broker got burned on an undercover drugs op in New Orleans (thankfully, the hilariously awful wig he wore undercover gets burned or something, too), and now he’s just lying low, hanging out, not looking for any trouble. Yet trouble comes anyway — I know this shocks you — if in the unlikeliest way: Maddy puts a bully in his place on the school playground, which enrages his meth-head mama (a truly scary Kate Bosworth: Movie 43, 21), who decides to sic her methlord brother on Broker for having had the audacity to teach his daughter how to fight to defend herself, thereby humiliating her son.

There’s some actually almost-profound stuff here, which doesn’t surprise me, because this is written by Sylvester Stallone (based on a novel by Chuck Logan). Don’t laugh: Stallone is, as a writer, an astute observer of male machismo and suppressed emotion — hello, Rocky and Rocky Balboa — and he makes us feel sorry for that gradeschool bully; the kid is not getting appropriate adult guidance at home and he just doing what he needs to do to get some attention from his mother. (I’m not kidding when I say that Bosworth is a horror.)

But that’s mostly not what Homefront is about. Mostly it’s about discovering that Bosworth’s brother is called Gator Bodine and he’s played by James Franco (As I Lay Dying, This Is the End) in full-on crazy mode (complete with his own bad wig), at which point we get to be all, “Awww yeah, it’s gonna come down to Statham v Franco!” And it does. Meth labs always promise to blow up so good.

It’s all fairly ridiculous, yet also predictable and obvious, which should be more of a contradiction than it is. For example: Broker is an indulgent father and so Maddy has both a kitten and a pony. Is this a happiness that can be allowed to stand? Of course not. Yet neither Stallone’s script nor director Gary Fleder (Runaway Jury) overplay the ridiculous stuff, and so we are never invited to take any of it too seriously. Somehow, Homefront manages to maintain a bizarre yet entertaining sense of redneck soap-opera tragedy. With inevitably exploding meth labs. Winona Ryder (The Iceman, Frankenweenie) as Bodine’s trashy, manipulative girlfriend is a particular treat, though almost no one is nice or decent beyond Broker and his daughter. Who are so cute and badass together that I really do want Statham to just keep teaming up with little girls to save the world.

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, please reconsider.
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