Review: 'Homefront'

If nothing else, we owe “Homefront” the debt of gratitude for a particular image. At some point in time Sylvester Stallone put down Chuck Logan's novel upon which it is based and said “yes, this speaks to me.”

Then he sat, night after night, banging away at his typewriter (Rocky uses a typewriter) until his screenplay adaptation was sculpted. Late into the night he walked the deck of his Malibu home, like the Ghost of Elsinore on the ramparts, struggling with the muse until finding les mots justes to express Chuck Zito's betrayed anguish. (He ultimately went with “Auuuuuugggghhhh!”)

While Sly himself does not appear in this motion picture, his blunt aesthetic (which goes over well in France dontchaknow) looms throughout. “Homefront” is a film in which righteousness is tested but ultimately wins the day – and when it does meth labs explode in slow motion.

We open in a meth lab – a different meth lab – where undercover agent Phil Broker (Jason Statham wearing Matt Dillon's hair from “Singles”) is going to make his big bust. Things don't go as planned and a member of the gang ends up getting wasted by the cops. “IT DIDN'T HAVE TO BE THIS WAY!” Statham emotes, as mob bosses with long memories vow vengeance.

Time moves on and Broker has left the force to get his head collected. (Oh, if only the scene where the chief said, “take stock, Broker!” had been left in.) He ends up in a small, perpetually sun-dappled town with his tween daughter. It's the hometown of his deceased wife and with Dad sawing lumber with a chummy black sidekick it looks like life might be okay. Problematically, Broker taught his daughter to stand-up to bullies, so when she does just that she sets off an extremely unlikely chain of events that leads to the drug baddies from earlier running around the bayou with machine guns. (The book is set in Minnesota, but the tax breaks are still in Louisiana.)

Broker's daughter beats the hell out of the jerk-ass son of a tweaky redneck gal whose big brother (James Franco), it turns out, is the town drug dealer. When she begs Franco to put the squeeze on Statham, and Statham quickly commences to kick the ass of every toughie that gets sent his way, he eventually figures out just who this newcomer is. This leads (slowly, oh, God, how slowly) to a bloody showdown with some A-1 butt-whoopin'.

Why doesn't Broker just leave? Because of HONOR, maybe? Who are we to pretend to understand the thought processes of a man who sees three villains in a mirror and can lay them all flat with a few leg sweeps?

Broker seems like a good father, though. He gets very upset when his daughter's cat is killed. And the eyes he's making with the school psychologist lacking a ring on her finger suggests this village may be worth sticking around in, assuming there are enough two-by-fours to saw. Though we're never quite sure if he's doing work on his own house, or if this is an actual job. If the former, we're guessing he's got some kind of pension? Cost of living is low down there, granted, but he's going to need some sort of secondary revenue stream. And what about college for the girl? She seems pretty sharp. I mean, she can tell something's wrong because she says “what's wrong, Dad?” before men with guns kidnap her. Oh, yeah, kidnapped. . .looks like she'll need therapy, too.

Clearly “Homefront” is a movie that grabs you and owns your full, rapt attention.

Other than the fighting, it's also worth it to watch what James Franco does during his sleeping hours. He gives a few “wacky” line readings, as if the Ghost of Nic Cage Present sprinkled some pixie dust in his trailer. But it comes out as very weak comparative sauce next to Alien from “Spring Breakers.” Only completists need check in with “Homefront.” The rest of us can just stay home.

SCORE: 4.5 / 10