Homefront is proof that an action flick can’t get by on script alone. Adapted by Sylvester Stallone from a Chuck Logan novel, the movie cultivates an old-school vibe: The bad guys are drug dealers and mercenaries, the tough ex-cop hero (Jason Statham) has a tomboy daughter and is referred to exclusively by his last name, and macho Stallone-isms (“Whatever you’re thinking, rethink it”) are sprinkled throughout the dialogue. The basic ingredients of a throwback action movie are all there; what’s missing is action and style.
Set in tax-incentive-friendly Louisiana, Homefront stars Statham as Broker, a widower and retired DEA agent. (Genre fans should get a kick out of the opening scene, which depicts Broker’s final undercover operation and has Statham donning a long-haired wig and an American accent.) Recently relocated to a sleepy small town, Broker spends his days restoring a plantation-style house and riding horses with his daughter while the setting sun shines directly into the camera.
Broker ends up getting on the bad side of the local boat mechanic/meth cook, Gator Bodine (James Franco, barely trying). The movie is at its best during this opening stretch, which follows the Broker-Bodine feud as it escalates from pet-napping to contract killing. As Homefront inches closer to its climactic showdown, though, its major flaw becomes apparent: Director Gary Fleder can’t mount a compelling action scene, let alone pull off the movie’s centerpiece shootout. Sloppy, murky shots of men yelling and running are chopped together with no sense of rhythm or force. Gunfights and explosions become bursts of disoriented angles and mismatched movement. Homefront’s cinematographer, Theo van de Sande, is a veteran of Adam Sandler movies, and it shows.
The film’s final act collapses into a pile of bad action-filmmaking tropes; there’s even an unnecessary and unconvincing CGI car crash straight out of Along Came A Spider. And though Statham is reliably charismatic, his screen presence can’t make up for Franco’s slurred sleepiness, or for Winona Ryder’s misfiring performance as Gator’s girlfriend and business partner.