Adding to the avalanche of violence coming to a screen near you for the holiday season is Homefront, another eye-averting cornucopia of bloodshed and torture with Jason Statham, the balding British import who acts so tough you think he gargles with battery fluid. Considering the popularity of the TV show Homeland, it’s either an act of indifferent courage or an act of ferriferous stupidity to confuse the audience with a title like Homefront. I’ll be the judge. You be the jury.
Mr. Statham, working hard to hide his British accent, plays another hard-ass hunk trying to escape the past and start a new life. It’s an old theme that has been done dozens of times before (think Viggo Mortensen in A History of Violence or Liam Neeson in Taken, among others). This time, Mr. Statham fills a lot of old boots as recently widowed DEA agent Phil Broker, who retires from the danger zone of big-city crime after killing the son of a top drug dealer in a messy drug bust involving 30 pounds of crystal meth, then moves to a remote country town in Louisiana to protect his 10-year-old daughter from gang retaliation.
But in the Get Shorty world of lugs and thugs, word spreads as fast as a doughnut franchise. After the father of the man he killed in the drug bust sends word from behind prison bars to get even, it’s not long before peace-loving, law-abiding Phil is forced to lock the doors and reach for his automatic to protect his house, his kid and his cat. The creep he’s up against now is the local drug lord, a ragin’ Cajun named “Gator” Bodine (another depraved, decadent riffraff role for the ubiquitous James Franco), so named for the huge alligator tattooed across his arm, along with his trashy, Goth girlfriend, Cheryl (Winona Ryder), a waitress-cum-biker with a prison record and the mouth of a drunken waterfront stevedore. An altercation on the school ground between Phil’s daughter and an obese bully who turns out to be the son of Gator’s hard-boiled, drug-addicted sister, Cassie (an unrecognizable Kate Bosworth), opens up a snake pit of vipers behind every swamp stump, waiting to strike.
Written by Sylvester Stallone, the gruesome fight scenes look painful and authentic. Directed by Gary Fleder (Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead), every knuckle sandwich lands on the jaw with the kind of souped-up amplification that sounds like the collapse of the Chrysler Building. The movie includes every backwoods B-movie cliché you’ve ever seen, including the obligatory redneck sheriff. But the actors look like they’re having a swell time whacking the hell out of each other. Newcomer Izabela Vidovic is especially impressive as a little girl who represents the moral center of the conflict, and Messrs. Statham and Franco, both well-known sleepwalkers on camera, seem more animated than usual. Suspend belief, and you’ll find Homefront predictable but entertaining.
WRITTEN BY Sylvester Stallone
DIRECTED BY Gary Fleder
STARRING Jason Statham, James Franco and Winona Ryder
RUNNING TIME 100 min.