Action-thrillers don’t get more rote, routine, and derivative than Homefront, the Jason Statham-starring, Sylvester Stallone-scripted, Gary Fleder-directed adaptation of Chuck Hogan’s novel, the first in a series, but most likely the last on the big screen. With Statham doing his Action Hero thing, Homefront promises, but fails to deliver on its seemingly modest B-movie promise, in large part because Homefront repeatedly fails to properly utilize the hardest working action star currently gracing multiplex screens. Add, or rather subtract, a lazily written screenplay overflowing with narrative cheats and shortcuts, sub-banal dialogue, and one too many talented actors slumming for a paycheck, and the end result isn’t even worth a DVD/streaming rental. In fact, Homefront is nothing less than a complete and utter disappointment.
Borrowing repeatedly – not to mention shamelessly – from Sons of Anarchy, Justified, and Breaking Bad (among others), Homefront opens with a ludicrous prologue featuring Statham’s undercover DEA character, Phil Broker, in full-on biker gear. Broker’s apparel, isn’t, however, what makes the scene ludicrous. That dubious honor belongs to Statham’s long, black tresses, courtesy of Homefront’s in-house wig maker. When a DEA bust on a meth lab goes sideways, several men, including the twitchy, drug addicted son of the biker gang’s leader, Danny T (Chuck Zito), die. It’s more than enough, apparently, to convince Broker to hang up his biker jacket and badge, shave his head, and head South with his preteen daughter, Maddy (Izabela Vidovic), to start a new life as a contractor in a small Louisiana town.
Here’s the kicker: Broker doesn’t even bother to change his name. He still goes by Broker. He doesn’t even move particularly far either, instead relying on dumb luck and a haircut to slip by unnoticed for the remainder of his natural life. We subsequently learn that Broker isn’t even a Yank. He’s a Brit, an Interpol officer who – for reasons left unexplained – went undercover for the DEA (or maybe as part of a joint DEA-Interpol task force). We learn about Broker’s problematic origin story not through a line of throwaway dialogue, but through the personnel file Broker took with him when he retired from the DEA (or Interpol, or both). Even worse, Broker apparently took a truckload of DEA files when he retired and stored them in the basement of his new home, the perfect spot for Gator Bodine (James Franco in scenery-chewing mode), to find after Broker and Gator, a wannabe meth kingpin, cross paths one too many times.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves (and the last thing we should do is get ahead of ourselves). Everything goes sideways when Maddy responds to bullying by beating up her oppressor. Her oppressor’s mother (and part-time tweaker), Cassie Bodine (Kate Bosworth), doesn’t take kindly to her son losing a fight to a girl and coaxes her weak-willed husband to confront Broker. Broker publicly humiliates him. As a result, Cassie turns to her brother to take down Broker. That’s more than enough to solidify the romantic interest of the school counselor, Susan Hatch (Rachelle Lefevre). As with practically every plot element and character, the romantic subplot goes nowhere – to be more accurate, Fleder and Stallone ditch the subplot for second- and third-act action heroics. To mirror Broker and Hatch’s romance, however, Fleder and Stallone give Gator a girlfriend and business partner, Sheryl Gott (Winona Ryder). With an eye on statewide distribution, Gator eventually enlists the aid of the same biker gang (or an associated biker gang) we saw in the prologue.
Arguably, Homefront delivers enough gratuitous violence to keep Statham and/or Stallone fans relatively happy for the duration, but anyone expecting intelligible, logical plotting or characters with IQs over 100 will be sorely displeased (and that’s an understatement). Homefront repeatedly relies on “idiot plotting” (characters acting like, well idiots to further the plot) and when that doesn’t work, throws in another violent confrontation or action scene to distract moviegoers from dwelling on Homefront’s numerous narrative problems. Even there, however, there’s no respite. Fleder’s (The Express, Runaway Jury, Impostor, Don’t Say a Word) hyperactive cutting makes it difficult, if not impossible, to make geographic sense of any of the fight scenes. Fleder loses Statham in images of arms, legs, and torsos, a rank disservice to an action star who, like Stallone and Schwarzenegger two or three generations earlier, does most of his own stunts. Depriving moviegoers of that singular pleasure is one deprivation too many and with nothing else to offer, Homefront slips permanently from passable time-waster to an unwatchable one.