DVD Review - Homefront

Chuck Logan is a Vietnam veteran-turned-author who has become known for a series of books featuring a character called Phil Broker. They're all crime dramas where Broker is ensnared in some situation and typically has to fight his way out. Homefront is one of the most recent books. Why this particular story was adapted is unclear. Why it's cast this particular way is also unclear. Having British action star Jason Statham play Phil Broker is not a big question, but having his rival be James Franco is absolutely ridiculous. At least, having the film climax the way it does is ridiculous.

Directed by Gary Fleder and written by Sylvester Stallone, nothing that ever happens ever feels like it has any weight. Broker never at any point feels as though he's in any danger. Even when his house is being shot up and his daughter is being kidnapped never did I feel scared or worried. The potential for it rises in a crucial scene when Broker meets Gator Bodine, played by Franco, but everyone involved squanders that potential. Franco tries, but even he ultimately falls short. Franco just never feels like he's a match for Statham.

The film opens with an over-the-top action sequence that it perhaps thinks it needs to carry through a lot of the non-action in the first half, but it doesn't. It also doesn't help that Statham has such a bad wig. Because the opening ultimately doesn't matter it should have just been ditched.

Logan's books haven't been adapted before, so the character of Phil Broker has not been established in cinema. Introducing him here in a more subtle or mysterious way would have been preferable as opposed to the loud, over-the-top way that the opening sequence is.

Broker moves to a small town in Louisiana with his prepubescent, teenage daughter Maddy, played by Izabela Vidovic. Broker settles into the new environment. He doesn't know much about the area and the people there don't know much about him. He intentionally doesn't reveal much about himself to the people either, so when Gator goes snooping through Broker's house, it could have been a revelation and not just redundancy.

Maddy is bullied at school by a heavyset boy named Teddy Klum, played by Austin Craig. Maddy is able to defend herself. She does so by forcibly punching the boy and instantly sending him to the ground. The boy's parents are notified and the mother particularly goes on the warpath.

Kate Bosworth plays Cassie, the mother on the warpath who at first wants an apology but when Broker and Maddy don't give it, she wants revenge. She calls in her brother Gator Bodine who is a local meth dealer with thugs at his disposal to beat up Broker. She calls on her brother when her emasculated husband Jimmy, played by Marcus Hester, is easily put to the ground by Broker.

At its core, the filmmakers have an interesting story and themes at play here. The idea of bullying between children spilling into bullying between adults is a compelling one. Roman Polanski explored it in the stage-to-screen adaptation of Carnage. Susanne Bier did it even better with In a Better World. This one could have topped both, but it completely misses the mark.

The movie doesn't really give the two children Maddy and Teddy, after the initial bullying scene, any additional scenes together where they would have had the space or freedom to talk to each other. Second, the rivalry between Broker and Gator is never personal enough. It's too far removed that I never bought why Gator did half the things against Broker.

He supposedly did it for his sister, but she's such a meth head by his doing that it makes no sense. Her relationship with her brother is not truly fleshed out or depicted enough to make us understand it. Cassie shows up at the end out of nowhere and after having been inconsequential for most of the film, she's only there to be a thorn in Gator's side, which again makes no sense.

Gator imports the grudge, which is established in the opening sequence. That grudge is Broker being blamed for the death of a biker criminal's son. There is no talk between Broker and the biker named Danny about the death. There is no debate, no exploration nor depth. It's a grudge that is treated so superficially.

The movie builds to what will be a final conflict between Broker and Gator, but by the time the final confrontation comes, it's clearly not a fair fight. The stakes are meaningless because no one watching had any possible way of caring.

One Star out of Five.
Rated R for strong violence, pervasive language, drug content and brief sexuality.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 40 mins.


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