After his humble beginnings starring in Guy Ritchie comedies such as Snatch and Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, timber-voiced Jason Statham has now become a fully-fledged action star icon in both America and the U.K. His performances in films such as The Transporter, The Italian Job, Crank, Blitz, and The Expendables amongst others have proved he’s capable of delivering a solid performance while also kicking some butt along the way. For his latest venture, Homefront, Statham is joined by fellow front-liners James Franco, Kate Bosworth, and Winona Ryder in a film that has more than enough explosions and fisticuffs to make action fans happy. But does Homefront carry enough substance to keep viewers engaged between the action scenes?
If you’ve seen some of Statham’s other films, you likely won’t care too much about the finer details of the characters he plays, which is ok since his steely gaze and flashy fighting moves are often all that’s needed to keep fans riveted. Homefront certainly has plenty of both and the narrative framework around which the film is centered manages to be a bit more believable than his usual high-stakes bank robberies/car chases/professional killer routines.
Statham plays Phil Broker, a retired DEA agent and single parent who moves to a small town in Louisiana with his daughter Maddy (Izabela Vidovic) after becoming jaded with the undercover lifestyle. His plan to live a quiet life with his daughter is quickly mucked up when, after an altercation with local resident Cassie Bodine Klum (Bosworth), both Phil and Maddy become the targets of Cassie’s meth kingpin brother Gator Bodine (Franco) and his partner/girlfriend Sheryl Marie Mott (Ryder). When Gator finds out about Broker’s previous occupation, he plans to use the information to take his meth business to the next level and, naturally, plenty of violence ensues.
As someone who’s best known for playing the gritty, badass, loner sort of hero, Statham actually manages to pull off the caring father archetype rather well. The rapport he and Vidovic have is apparent in virtually all their scenes together, especially the parts where Broker struggles to walk the line between a father trying to shield his daughter from the evils of the world and at the same time protecting her the only way he knows how: by punching, kicking, and shooting anyone that threatens her. It may not be an Oscar-worthy performance, but fans worried that Statham’s portrayal as a caring dad would feel fake or forced need not fret.
Franco’s Gator Bodine meanwhile comes off as a surprisingly cunning and ruthless villain who’s willing to do whatever it takes to make his meth empire grow. Like Broker, his motivations are tied closely to his family but his methods, which are equal parts manipulation, enforcement, and intimidation, make it clear that deep down he only cares about himself. Some may find it hard to separate Franco from some of the goofier comedy roles of his past, but there’s no denying that Homefront’s Gator Bodine manages to match Broker’s stalwart desire to protect Maddy with his own veiled menace.
As the film’s two leading ladies, both Bosworth and Ryder go to admirable lengths to make their characters believable and compelling despite their limited screentime and lack of character depth. Bosworth’s portrayal as a meth-addicted mother whose drug-fueled hysteria sets off the confrontation between Broker and Bodine seems one-dimensional at first but later scenes reveal that she isn’t quite as evil as her brother. Ryder’s Sheryl Marie Mott on the other hand is a living duality; a victimized ex-biker groupie who uses her relationship with Gator to seize whatever little bit of power she can in a world run by men.
Considering Homefront was adapted from the Chuck Logan novel of the same name by Sylvester Stallone serving as head screenwriter, the film isn’t without its plot holes which, fortunately, are never egregious enough to derail the plot entirely. For instance, why would Broker keep extensive files and records of his DEA cases and aliases (the means through which Gator finds him out) in his house if he was so eager to forget about the past? When Broker in turn discovers Gator’s meth business, why not call up his old DEA buddies instead of deciding to handle Gator and his entire squad of goons by himself?
Such questions may gnaw at the back of some viewer’s minds, but luckily, a well-choreographed fight scene featuring Statham’s signature stylish and brutal martial arts antics is never too far off, helping to distract those inquisitive viewers. Broker’s ability to effortlessly beat the stuffing out of multiple assailants at once may not be an entirely accurate portrayal of standard DEA training, but fans hoping to see fight scenes that skew closer to Transporter than Crank won’t be disappointed.
As someone whose entire list of films makes for quite a lengthy IMDB web page, Jason Statham has shown he’s willing to play with viewer expectations while also staying true to his action star bread and butter. While Homefront isn’t nearly as drastic a departure for Statham as it is for, say, James Franco or Winona Ryder, it does help to remind viewers that he can in fact do more than just the clichéd brooding action hero. When given the chance to play a violent character that must consider the weight and repercussions of his actions and how they affect those he cares about, Statham rises to the task while also giving more diehard fans a good show as always.