The Jason Statham vehicle “Homefront” is such a generic tough-guy-against-the-odds ’80s style actioner that you’d swear Sly Stallone starred in it. He did, back in the day. Or versions of it.
The completed one, Stallone just scripted.
From the setup – ex-DEA agent who just wants “to be left in peace” in a meth-mad Louisiana town where they won’t let sleeping DEA agents lie – to the finale, it’s all recycled and overfamiliar, a formula picture right down to the line ex-agent Phil Broker’s 10-year-old daughter Maddy (Izabela Vidovic) cries about her dead mother: “I miss her so much my stomach hurts!”
But let’s get to the good part. Friends, you have never seen actress/bombshell Kate Bosworth like this, not in a movie. Too often filmed in girlfriend-in-swimsuit roles, Bosworth (“Blue Crush,” “Superman Returns”) goes shrieking redneck harpy here, a regular Maury Povich/“Duck Dynasty” nightmare essay in trash. Gaunt, with dark sockets for eyes, she’s the meth-head mom enraged when her chubby bully son gets his butt kicked by Maddy in her first weeks at Rayville Elementary.
“I want an APOLOGY!” she screams, between profanities. Broker (Statham), new to town after a lifetime of undercover work in nearby New Orleans, doesn’t get that.
“It’s a bit like Appalachia,” the pretty schoolmarm (Rachelle Lefevre) explains. “Feuds. They still exist.”
Indeed they do. That incident throws Broker into the field of fire of local meth mogul Gator, played with not quite enough of a demonic wink by James Franco.
You see the problem with “Homefront” right off. As good as Bosworth is (her character is Gator’s sister), as reliable as Statham always manages to be in these butt-kickers, as bracing as it is to see Winona Ryder as a meth moll gone to seed, the idea that Franco could be anything other than a minor nuisance to Statham is laughable. Franco’s performance, which starts off broad and drawling and amusingly cruel, seems to reflect that. A good actor, he literally shrinks in Statham’s presence as the movie unfolds.
Beatdowns so intense they make you avert your eyes, threats to Maddy and her cat and to Broker’s amusingly likable sidekick (Omar Benson Miller), all are standard issue in this sort of film. Ryder is perfectly cast as the high-mileage biker chick who figures Gator is the business (and rough-sex) partner she’s been working toward all these years, and Clancy Brown is spot-on as the see-no-evil sheriff.
Director Gary Fleder (“The Runaway Jury,” “Imposter”) never lets things fall below competent. There just isn’t enough to work with here. Hero and villain are as thinly drawn as in any Arnold/Sly pic of the ’80s. We have a right to expect more, even from a lead actor who chooses his roles based on who the fight choreographer is.
But meth mama Bosworth? There’s a movie in her, and a series. The junkie-thin arms and tallow-colored skin are just the start of her commitment to the part. She’s so strung out that we can’t wait to see what happens to her teeth.
1½ stars (Out of four)
Starring: Jason Statham, James Franco, Kate Bosworth, Izabela Vidovic, Winona Ryder
Director: Gary Fleder
Running time: 100 minutes
Rating: R for strong violence, pervasive language, drug content and brief sexuality.