HOMEFRONT (Gary Fleder, 2014)
Statham in a domestic thriller? No way. Statham worked well kicking asses and taking names in the TRANSPORTER movies, as well as in bone-crunching extravaganzas such as SAFE, KILLER ELITE, and the two CRANK and EXPENDABLES films. Even in a caper, Statham works well, as is the case with THE BANK JOB, his most highly-regarded film. But in a domestic thriller with James Franco as villain? Franco who will forever be the laughing stock of Oscar night history, and who works best in small roles such as Danny Clear in THE GREEN HORNET cannot possibly be menacing enough for Statham, but he is, and surprisingly, the film plays out decent enough to keep my attention.
Written by Sylvester Stallone (yes, him) and directed by Gary Fleder (RUNAWAY JURY, KISS THE GIRLS), HOMEFRONT is basically yet another visual translation of the cinematic age old mantra in action movies, that ex-military or ex-police, or ex-whatever protagonists now living peacefully will always find their past catching up with them, no matter what they do.
In this instance, Statham is an ex-DEA agent who has infiltrated a biker gang involved in drug manufacture. Years later, we learn he has a young daughter, is widowed, and is starting over in Louisiana.
Enter Franco as a small-time, no good meth head who crosses path with Statham's simpleton guy. Statham is an enigma to the residents of the small town he migrates to. When a school incident involving his daughter and the son of a local woman (SUPERMAN RETURNS' Kate Bosworth, who is overtly deglamorized here) paves the way for the ex-DEA agent to confront his past, no punches are pulled.
And here is where I was totally surprised, as Fleder manages to mount numerous fight scenes adequate to showcase Statham's great fighting skills. Since this is a film with so many bad guys running about, it would be a waste to see Statham just standing there, not beating villains to a pulp. Moreover, we learn a new way to brutalize and/or incapacitate goons.
See the film if you're a Statham fan, which I am. Aside from the action, the film has that extra amount of heart because of the presence of the young girl (Statham's character's daughter) who makes us care what happens to Statham at all.
Franco delivers pretty well also. He's not the quintessential bad guy here you'll hate so much that you'd want to see him die in the most painful way possible. Nope, that's not him. He portrays in turn a guy who just wants to move up in the world, even with the use of treachery.
And who here thinks we really didn't need Winona Ryder in this movie at all?