Rarely does an action movie suffer from too much story. In the case of “Homefront,” an abundance of go-nowhere set-ups, extraneous predicaments, and unnecessary complications on already trying situations detract from the simple enjoyment of seeing tough guy Jason Statham pound on his enemies. When the martial artist metes out his own brand of head-smashing justice to ruthless biker gangs and thuggish drug dealers, the adrenaline rush is entertainingly high (as can be expected from a screenplay by Sylvester Stallone). But mixing in merciless killers, meth labs, and junkies with young children results in some uncomfortably dark scenarios that, while amplifying the intensity, significantly decreases the fun. At least the supporting cast, playing mostly against type, bolsters the otherwise modest diversion.
After an undercover job for the DEA ends in tragedy, agent Phil Broker (Jason Statham) moves to the remote rural town of Rayville, Louisiana, to raise his young daughter Maddy (Izabela Vidovic). But it isn’t long before Broker gets entangled in the lives of his neighbors. The impetuous addict Cassie (Kate Bosworth) forces her brother Morgan “Gator” Bodine (James Franco), the local drug kingpin, to teach the stalwart newcomer a lesson about bruised egos, reputations, and public humiliation. When the overzealous meth dealer uses his girlfriend’s (Winona Ryder) connections to recruit a vicious biker gang with a personal vendetta against the former officer, Broker must wage a bloody war against them as well, to defend his family and his new home.
Questionable commentary on children witnessing bloodshed, youths involved in violence, and the parental influences that spawn bullying are brought up in “Homefront,” a film that couldn’t be further from the appropriate base for purposefully preaching about such matters. It’s practically antithetical when Statham hugs his daughter while still clutching a weapon of execution, or turns the tables on his torturers by inflicting tortuous pain on them in return (via a swift screwdriver and a handy car battery). Of course, it’s also largely entertaining when indisputably vile enemies are grandiosely dispatched or when a pudgy bully is bloodied and beaten to the ground by a little girl. Designing the role of troublemaker Gator to be a semi-sympathetic, understandably misguided, smalltime crook greedily getting involved with completely hardened murderers also contrasts the original black-and-white outlook on violence, demonstrating a shade of gray that carries over into Ryder’s initially unwilling negotiator and Bosworth’s eventually reforming tweaker.
The opening scene itself is an example of “Lethal Weapon” styled, over-the-top, explosive heroism, with Statham donning the familiar camouflage of a wig and covert operations accessories (a la the pitiful previous outing, “Parker”) to not only annihilate an illegal drug operation but also apprehend the top two chieftains. Round after round of hired thugs continue to approach Broker and he continues to rough them up while serving as a role model for his daughter and staying one step away from landing the romantic interest (Rachelle Lefevre). Poor Statham apparently can’t be written to be both a father and a lover. Ultimately, “Homefront” is a touch slow to get past the repetitive scenes of fist-fighting buildup to delve into the real story (which is instigated by the extremely curious possession of his own top secret, classified, undercover police files) and main action, highlighted by tense confrontations with Franco and his lowlife posse and the vengeful biker gang that totes automatic firepower and overlooks the heinousness of slaughtering children as collateral damage. But in a Jason Statham movie, lessons on violence are often overcome by the sheer entertainment of his bombastic fighting abilities.
– The Massie Twins