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Come for the action, stay for the performances

Homefront pretty good by Statham standards

By: Scott Hayes

  |  Posted: Saturday, Dec 07, 2013 06:00 am

Jason Statham and Izabela Vidovic star in a scene from the movie
Jason Statham and Izabela Vidovic star in a scene from the movie "Homefront."
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Review

Homefront
Stars: 4.0
Starring: Jason Statham, James Franco, Winona Ryder, Kate Bosworth, Clancy Brown and Pruitt Taylor Vince
Directed by: Gary Fleder
Written by: Sylvester Stallone
Rated: 14A for coarse language, brutal violence and substance abuse. See http://www.albertafilmratings.ca/classrep.aspx?fid=14452
Runtime: 100 minutes
Now playing at Cineplex Odeon North Edmonton and Scotiabank Theatres

It will probably come as no surprise that Jason Statham’s new movie, Homefront, is an action-heavy drama about a former DEA agent whose ‘martial artist with heart of gold’ saves the day in an otherwise unpleasant and upsetting situation. How upsetting? The movie starts off bloody and violent, and seems to stay that way throughout.

What is a surprise is that it isn’t bloody and violent throughout. Well, not totally anyway. It simmers with tension as we are all dragged along the emotional rollercoaster of an otherwise typical actioner, this time done very, very well.

What’s even more of a surprise is that this Sylvester Stallone-scribed book adaptation has got much to praise. He has always been a screenwriter, even since Rocky, and his work here is fine indeed. Even if it is still just a Jason Statham movie.

He plays Phil Broker, an undercover DEA agent who has infiltrated a biker gang. He’s the insider of an intricate sting operation. Just at the moment of a major drug deal, the DEA crashes in and a gunfight ensues, one where numerous people are killed including the son of the gang’s leader, a guy named Danny T (Chuck Zito). He issues a vendetta, even though Broker acted honourably and tried to prevent it.

Fast forward two years. Broker has retired and relocated to a small industrial town in Louisiana. When his daughter (Izabela Vidovic) – who he has offered self-defence skills to – becomes the victor in a schoolyard fight with a bully, a chain of coincidences starts to unfold that will see him pitted against locals, including a drug lord, and eventually Danny T.

Those locals include Cassie (Kate Bosworth), the sheriff (Clancy Brown) and Gator (James Franco), a guy with a meth lab in his boathouse and big plans to become a statewide distributor. Gator, at the behest of Cassie, checks out Broker’s house and discovers who he really is, and his connection to Danny T. He makes a deal for his future in the drug trade in exchange for directions to Broker. Of course, all of this culminates in taunting, harassment and inevitably, a gunfight or two.

Homefront is about a big city hero who is misunderstood in a small town. Think of it as First Blood but with more roundhouses and chokeholds. Statham is a one-trick pony and that trick isn’t emoting. It’s punching. Broker is a simple man just trying to raise his little girl with no trouble, until he gets pulled back into the fray.

The strange thing is that the best part of the movie is the acting, even with Statham doing what he always does: assaulting and mumbling his way through his scenes. Franco, on the other hand, is a versatile performer and his Gator character is above par. Although it’s not his best work, it does come close. Tito (Omar Benson Miller), a guy helping Broker with home renovations, is a large part of the heart of the movie. He’s the one black man in a town full of “rednecks” and offers such sage advice about Gator as he’s “crazy waitin’ to happen” and the town, he says, is a place where people don’t “shake and make up.”

Bosworth’s Cassie, however, is astounding and ultimately convincing as a drug addict and a very unpleasant person to interact with. She really made this movie the nerve-wracking experience that it was. It’s an unsettling portrayal that also shows how violence and hate can affect children and make the cycle of abuse repeat itself.

Ultimately, Homefront does what it should and does it very well. It’s really a simple story about good and evil. I don’t mean to spoil anything but just like every other simple story, it all ends just as you’d expect. In fact, it ends much as it begins. What you don’t expect are the compelling performances in between. This is a movie that is paced well, achieves an effective atmosphere, and holds your attention all the way through. That’s something to take note of.


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