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by Jay Seaver

"Sometimes an action movie needs to be more than just a little odd."
3 stars

Here's a question: If a by-the-numbers genre movie that otherwise has direct-to-video (or, these days, video-on-demand) written all over it somehow puts together a group of interesting actors who actually play their parts fairly well, does it really matter if this doesn't make for better action? Maybe, maybe not. There winds up not being much to "Homefront", but it's a lot less laughable between fights than many other movies of its ilk.

It starts out with a drug bust in Shreveport, Louisianna, where the DEA takes down a biker gang led by Danny Turrie (Chuck Zito) with the help of undercover Interpol agent Phil Broker (Jason Statham - you can tell he's undercover because he has hair and is attempting an American accent). It does not end in an ideal fashion. Two years later, Broker is living a few hours away in Rayville, where his late wife grew up, raising his daughter Maddy (Izabela Vidovic), pretty much retired. Trouble starts when Maddy stands up to a bully at school, because the kid (Austin Craig) has a mother (Kate Bosworth) who has a brother (James Franco) who cooks meth, and having this DEA guy in his backyard could be both a threat and an opportunity.

For as much as Homefront follows a familiar template from its generic title to its familiar story about the super-cop who just wants to live a quiet life remodeling the old house he bought (except that criminals just have to keep poking at him until he is forced to unleash the violence), Sylvester Stallone's adaptation of Chuck Logan's novel is just far enough off the usual beam to be interesting. Lay the plot out, and it's an almost comedically absurd escalation from kids shoving each other on the playground to grownups firing automatic weapons at the climax, but the path between those two events meanders in a way that can occasionally be frustrating, but also amusing. As much as the audience may grumble about not much happening, there's something to like in how this absurdity plays out, from the "girl takes down much larger guy" fight being played out with ten-year-olds to how the missing cat gets played as a tack-on bit to several scenes rather than just a way to show how nasty the bad guys are.

As thin as the story is, the cast is weirdly good. Stallone probably wrote the script with himself in mind for the lead role, but the film is lucky to have Statham instead. Jason Statham isn't necessarily a guy who will stretch for a role, but he can certainly fill in all the nooks and crannies within a certain range better than most guys who can handle themselves in an action scene, though this is probably the first chance he's had to really try since The Bank Job. And that he does so is kind of important, because he's surrounded by people who don't seem to be treating this as a paycheck job: James Franco makes a character by the name of "Gator" Bodine just clever enough to be good at being small time, though not as smart as he thinks he is, and he does it without making him a complete joke. He's often paired with Winona Ryder as a girlfriend who is just smarter enough to recognize the mess the situation is, but still manages to be an entertaining mess of panic and greed. Kate Bosworth makes such a great angry redneck mom that all the nice/tightly wound roles she's done before seem like going down the wrong career path. And Izabela Vidovic is pretty darn great as Maddy; she may be a precocious kid, but never an annoying one and not a small adult.

Gary Fleder directs, and he does all right in making the most of the thin story, getting good work out of this cast and helping to make obligatory subplots reasonably enjoyable to watch as opposed to being just the ligaments holding action scenes together. The action itself is actually pretty decent - maybe not quite top-tier, but clear enough to actually generate some intensity and show what's happening even in close quarters. He seems to be splitting the middle where the tone of the movie is concerned - it's not quite eccentric enough to be one sort of crime movie but also not sustainedly violent enough to be the other - with mixed results.

And that's what makes me wonder - if it doesn't have the likes of Franco, Ryder, Bosworth and the like, but more folks like Frank Grillo (who has a pretty good fight with Statham toward the end), does "Homefront" end up doing one thing very well rather than being just decent all around? Admittedly, that includes spots where this sort of movie often isn't very good, but given that the complete package is merely passable, just how important is a good supporting cast to this sort of thing?

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=25361&reviewer=371
originally posted: 11/30/13 11:13:57
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User Comments

6/18/14 Haley S. I really liked this movie. It was suspenseful and well paced. 4 stars
4/26/14 mr.mike Tense and atmospheric. 4 stars
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  27-Nov-2013 (R)
  DVD: 11-Mar-2014

  06-Dec-2013 (15)

  27-Nov-2013 (MA)
  DVD: 11-Mar-2014

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