Gary Fleder’s Homefront should be a low-key trash masterpiece. It’s a film filled with the staples of exploitation films, from drug-addled rednecks to bloodthirsty bikers, all set in the sweaty backwoods of Louisiana. About the only way Homefront could be fun is if it simply reveled in its inherent junkiness. If you’re going to be bad, just shed your pretensions and be bad already. But Homefront doesn’t do this. Instead, it acts as a straight-faced action picture, full of simplistic moralizing on pop culture’s current favorite illicit-substance, meth — and mixes in a lot of jumbled action.
I’m not sure who’s to blame here. Obviously, Fleder — a director who’s used to making more reserved thrillers and various TV shows — bears much of the guilt. But then there’s the script, written by producer Sylvester Stallone, a man who has spent an entire career taking himself too seriously. His screenplay involves Phil Broker (Jason Statham), a former DEA agent who’s settled down in a small Louisiana town with his daughter (newcomer Izabela Vidovic). He just wants a quiet life, but a schoolyard skirmish puts the Brokers at odds with meth-head Cassie (Kate Bosworth), whose brother Gator (James Franco) cooks meth and has designs on becoming a big-time druglord. When Gator discovers Broker’s past life in law enforcement, things quickly get out of hand, giving our protagonist ample opportunity to roundhouse kick various bumpkins.
While I suppose there’s potential entertainment value in that, Fleder can’t quite wrangle it. Like I said, the film is just a bit too humorless — a pity, since the goofier the movie (think the Crank films, obviously) the better Statham is. It’s an approach that would probably help the entire ensemble, which can be best described as a collection of casting curios. Beyond Franco playing the grungy bad guy — a role he plays surprisingly straight for such a low-rent film — there’s the reappearance of Kate Bosworth as — of all things — an emaciated drug addict, and Winona Ryder as a skittish biker-groupie. What’s strange is that it’s these performers who keep the movie humming along, putting more into their roles than this bargain-basement action movie deserves. The action pieces that Homefront is supposed to be built upon are ugly and incoherent. The big climax, set in and around Broker’s backwoods house, takes place at night and is nigh indecipherable. It’s 2013 and people are still making action movies like this. When a film has one sole purpose and can’t even make that entertaining, that’s a gigantic flaw. That Homefront’s even watchable is a surprise in itself. Rated R for strong violence, pervasive language, drug content and brief sexuality.
Playing at Carmike 10, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande.