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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

HomeFront Review. It Might Be A Crowd Pleaser, But We Can't Recommend It.

HomeFront Review
By: MattInRC

The Stallone/Statham acted action thriller Homefront is two parts pretty good, one part terrible.

There's nothing more we at SJF hate than missed opportunities: films like Homefront stand alongside Paranoia and A Good Day to Die Hard at the top of 2013's most disappointing. Two acts good and one act awful, Homefront is written by Actor Sylvester Stallone, who himself starred in another 2013 yawner Bullet to the Head. The story of former DEA agent Phil Broker (Statham) and his efforts to live a quiet retired life are shattered when a fight between his kid and a local bully escalates to a parental feud with a drug dealer named Gator (James Franco). Broker's past comes back to haunt him, when the father he put behind bars learns of his existence, courtesy of Gator and his girlfriend Sheryl (a sexy Winona Ryder), who want to control the local drug flow. Soon, the deal goes bad when a hit team of crazed bikers - led by Frank Grillo - descend on the small southern town ready to show Broker a little payback.

What starts out as a potentially great thriller descends into a terribly conceived, edited, and predictable third act, filled with heavy Statham punches that will make any theater system quake. That's not a great thing, because the action is nothing new or inventive, and Statham just looks under-cooked here, content to utter a few funny quips and frolic with her daughter's physiologist (Krista Campbell). There's a good cast behind Statham, including Kate Bosworth as the psychotic drug mother whose child starts everything in motion. She's the wild card that escalates this past the literary point of no return, and it's one of the most compelling parts of Homefront. Sadly, that's all there is, leaving Director Gary Fleder with a bunch of toothless in-breds that make one wonder how Franco's drug operation could be anything more than a death-dealing trainwreck. There's no shortage of these goons for Statham to dispense, but in the end even he is limited to only a couple of well-placed punches.

Frankly, we expected more from a Statham movie, and actually felt at one point that we would be given exactly that. Bosworth's meth-wasted physique makes her crazier than a bag of cats, and her exchanges with the husband and her brother Gator are among the film's best. But there's also a sense of incompleteness to Homefront, as if Fleder simply missed the importance of adding a tense third act to match all the buildup of a pretty good first and second. What we get instead is pretty incoherent and predictable - we know Statham will win (hope that's not too big of a spoiler), his daughter will survive a Franco kidnapping, and all will be right with the world. That automatically forces the story into a corner while its competitor takes potshots until it collapses under its own weight. When that anti-climatic ending arrives, we could feel the film take a decidedly different turn, as if parts had been reshot based on test audience reaction. Speaking of which, ours seemed to like all the bullying and fisticuffs, but we still can't recommend it. Franco never seems comfortable with his role, content to look menacing without actually being it and actually looking bored in some scenes, while Ryder's bar chick physique looks good on paper but falls flat each time she and Franco hook up. This feels like a Stallone film in every way, and that's not a good thing, with cheesy lines and other Stallone fingerprints popping up faster than you can say Rambo.

Homefront could have been a tense and terse thriller about the Deep South and the way its residents sometimes hold long grudges to deadly conclusions, but instead we're left with an implausible and hollow ending that won't stay with you once the lights come up. Chock up another failure for Stallone, whose Christmas gift to Statham should have come with a return receipt. Our suggestion is to wait for this one on Netflix. Homefront is rated R for strong violence, pervasive language, drug content and brief sexuality and has a runtime of 100 minutes.

Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125.

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