Homefront Nothing More Than a Momentary Diversion
- Christian Hamaker Contributing Film and Culture Writer
- 2013 27 Nov
DVD Release Date: March 11, 2014
Theatrical Release Date: November 27, 2013
Rating: R for strong violence, pervasive language, drug content and brief sexuality
Run Time: 100 min.
Director: Gary Fleder
Cast: Jason Statham, James Franco, Winona Ryder, Rachelle Lefevre, Kate Bosworth, Izabela Vidovic
What kind of movies should families see this Thanksgiving weekend—a traditional launching point for some of the highest-profile releases of the year? Choices abound among titles opening this week: the latest animated film from Disney, Frozen; another take on the Christmas story, Black Nativity; or a violent, R-rated action film full of harsh language, Homefront.
Family entertainment isn’t what comes to mind when talking about Homefront, but studios long ago figured out that more than just family audiences flock to the movies over the Thanksgiving weekend. Homefront takes up the slot for those looking for a bone-breaking, pitchfork-stabbing, explosion-laden spectacle. There’s nothing about it that’s new, but for what it is, it’s not as bad as it could be. The film is helped tremendously by a lead performance from rising action star Jason Statham (Parker), whom the filmmakers somewhat successfully soften up by giving him a cute daughter.
Phil Broker (Statham) is a DEA agent who, after helping take down a drug dealer in the film’s opening moments, retreats to the small town of Rayville, Louisiana. We catch up with him two years later. As a recent widower raising a young daughter (Izabela Vidovic), Broker tries to keep a low profile, but a playground incident involving a school bully drags him out into the open. The bully's mom (Kate Bosworth, Superman Returns), unhappy with Broker's response to the episode, sics her drug-dealing brother Gator (James Franco) and his girlfriend (Winona Ryder, The Dilemma) on Broker. The stakes grow higher once Broker's identity is uncovered, with Broker left to fend for himself against several opponents. Not even the local sheriff (Clancy Brown, Cowboys & Aliens) is on Broker's side.
The film, written by Sylvester Stallone and based on a novel by Chuck Logan, plays out as expected. But before it settles into rote incidents and conflicts, Homefront does a nice job of humanizing Statham, who's given a few softer scenes with his daughter and a local school official to show that he's more than just a square-jawed killing machine (although the sappy acoustic-guitar music that accompanies these moments lays on the emotional manipulation a bit too thickly).
Franco looks passive, if not bored, through much of Homefront—closer to his annoying turn as host of the Oscars than to his take on Oz in the mildly enjoyable Oz the Great and Powerful. The only other performer here to make an impression is Bosworth as the nasty, foul-tempered mother determined to humiliate Broker any way she can.
Is Homefront the kind of 'mature' movie audiences want over the holidays? Perhaps. The taste for these violence-filled action films seems to be growing even among younger viewers. The week-earlier release of the second Hunger Games film, rated PG-13, indicates that interest in violence isn't limited to older viewers, and that film's massive opening-weekend box-office take may indicate that this segment of the audience is underserved, regardless of the time of year. Homefront therefore may provide a short-term fix for those who can't get enough of this sort of storytelling. But what sets Homefront apart from other entries in the same genre? Not much. Despite the life Statham injects into the story, it's well-trod territory, and tired in spots to boot.
Homefront may not be deadly dull; it's just nothing to get excited about. If it's bone-crunching entertainment you want this Thanksgiving, chances are you’ll be better off staying home and watching football on TV.
- Language/Profanity: Lord's name taken in vain; heavy use of foul language, including multiple f-words; "retarded"
- Drinking/Smoking: Drug use, drug production, smoking
- Sex/Nudity: Kissing; sex against the hood of a car
- Violence/Crime: Brutal fights; a playground fight; guns are pointed at heads, used to whip; pitchfork used as a lethal weapon; stabbing
- Religion/Morals/Marriage: Broker’s wife is said to have recently died after a long illness; daughter says she gets the feeling that her deceased mom worries about her dad
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Publication date: November 27, 2013