'Homefront' is mediocre but A-list cast keeps it interesting

James Franco in Homefront. (Supplied photo)

James Franco in Homefront. (Supplied photo)

Rating

2.5 Stars2.5/5

Bruce Kirkland, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:27 AM ET

With its origins and the people involved, the action thriller Homefront is an American oddity. It is a mediocre movie that is actually quite interesting and occasionally entertaining.

Sylvester Stallone wrote the script, basing his cliches on Chuck Logan's novel, which is part of a series featuring the same tough-guy protagonist. Gary Fleder, who has not made a feature film since his sports biopic The Express five years ago, came on-board to direct.

For on-screen appeal, Jason Statham plays the flawed hero, although one suspects Stallone originally wrote this for his younger self. Statham, an English action star, uniquely makes every movie he is in a little better just by starring in it, unlike the erratic Stallone. Meanwhile, chameleon James Franco plays the movie's lowlife psycho-villain, Winona Ryder is his scuzzy grifter-girlfriend and Kate Bosworth is nearly unrecognizable as Louisiana trailer-park trash. Oh, and Canadian beauty Rachelle Lefevre (from the first Twilight) gets to play normal as a local teacher who is not inbred or angry or abusive or in need of a bath and a lobotomy, unlike Bosworth's character. Statham and Lefebre aside, and thanks to the general depiction of Lousiana as Hell on Earth, Homefront will do nothing for the state's tourism industry.

The plot is your basic, stupid, Hollywood set-up. Statham, a veteran law enforcement officer, retires from active duty to take up residence in a small bayou town. He sets out to raise his pre-teen daughter (Izabela Vidovic) in a "normal" environment, despite the death of her mother, his wife.

Trouble is, outsiders are suspicious of and belligerent to both of them. When the girl pounds the crap out of a boy bully at school, and this slug happens to be Bosworth's son, tensions start to escalate. Vengeance is put into motion. Statham's killer defence training kicks in. By the end of the movie, this boyou backwater will be littered with dead bodies and plenty of stuff will blow up "real good." Statham, of course, will be required to show off his mixture of martial arts, lightning reflexes and penchant for brutality.

The twist -- as is true of most of Statham's recent movies -- is that he is "the good guy" who only uses violence to defend himself and his daughter against violence. Statham's true nature, as a gentle spirit, is allowed to float to the surface for seconds at a time. He is actively trying to humanize his action roles.

But you should not take Homefront seriously on any level. It is preposterous and ultra-violent for no particular reason, especially when Franco goes ape-poop and Ryder acts insane. But Statham's undeniable charm, odd wit and physical prowess manages to win us over in the middle of all this madness.

Stallone's script, however, will remind no one of the once hungry young scrapper who surprised Hollywood with his Rocky screenplay. Fleder does Stallone no favours, directing Homefront strictly as a plodding and predictable thriller, the kind of generic project that usually stars a bunch of B-level actors.

Still, the movie manages to catch our attention. There are just too many interesting people involved in it.

bruce.kirkland@sunmedia.ca


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