It's too bad the field of contenders for a best-actor Oscar is crowded this year - no room for Jason Statham, who in Homefront gives a performance so far beyond what he has done in Parker, Safe, Blitz, and Crank that it almost defies comparison. That long, scruffy hair when he's an undercover DEA agent, infiltrating a biker gang! How did he do that?!
In fact, Homefront offers an all-around master class of thespian excellence: James Franco is unstoppable as Gator Bodine, a bayou meth cooker - a kind of Southern-fried Walter White, if Walter had sat home all day watching Cape Fear and thinking that Robert Mitchum (or Robert De Niro in the remake) was cool. And let's not forget Winona Ryder, as Gator's strung-out, booze-slinging ex. Ryder rockets to such heights of emoting that she looks like she could black out from lack of oxygen.
In this modern-day western (think High Noon, think 3:10 to Yuma, or think Sylvester Stallone writing a final installment of Rambo, which, in fact, is exactly Homefront's provenance), Statham is Phil Broker, a DEA agent who quit his gig after a bust gone bad. Two years later, he can be found in sleepy Rayville, La., starting over on an old plantation. It's just him and his almost 10-year-old, Maddy (Izabela Vidovic). Broker's a widower now, and he's trying to go off the grid - someplace without much of a grid to begin with.
Father and daughter ride horses. Broker fixes the house while Maddy is at school. But then Maddy gets picked on by a classroom bully, and defends herself, just like Dad taught her to do. Suddenly the Brokers aren't so inconspicuous anymore, especially since the bully's mom, Cassie (Kate Bosworth, slumming), is Gator's meth-head sister.
Anyone in this town not a meth head?
Yes. That would be Susan Hatch (Rachelle Lefevre), the pretty school psychologist. The way she looks at Broker, you can tell she'd be happy to continue their parent conference outside office hours.
Homefront, directed by Gary Fleder (from that script by Stallone), is a story of a man pushed to his limits, forced to protect his property and his progeny, when Gator goes crazy and when a tattooed squad of avenging bikers rumble into town.
Luckily, Statham is up to the task. Which is a surprise, because he's never, ever done anything like this before.
Homefront ** 1/2
(out of four stars)
Directed by Gary Fleder. With Jason Statham, James Franco, Winona Ryder, Kate Bosworth, and Izabela Vidovic. Distributed by Open Road.
Running time: 1 hour, 40 mins.
Parent's guide: R (violence, profanity, drugs, adult themes)
Playing at: area theaters